The effects of vaccinating nursing homes
BarcelonaFortunately, the vaccination of residents and workers of nursing homes is progressing at a good pace and next week the Department of Health expects to be able to administer all the second doses required. The fact that all residents are vaccinated, however, will not, at least initially, lead to a change in the protocol that currently regulates trips and visits. This has led to there being voices in favour of a relaxation of the protocol so that the residents, who have already suffered a situation of isolation and stress due to the pandemic, can see that the fact of being vaccinated has some benefit for them.
The choice is obviously a very delicate one and it is up to the health authorities to decide. But it is also true that not all segments of the population can be treated equally because their vital needs are different. People who are facing the end of their lives in nursing homes, and who because of their fragility have been the first to be vaccinated, need more than anyone else to be able to receive the warmth and love of their relatives. And those who care for them also need to be able to regain a certain sense of normality before it is too late.
Therefore, in the same way that the opening of economic sectors is being done in a strict manner, defining in detail the hours during which people can be in a café, or until what time shops can be open, the protocol for care homes should be made more flexible in order to improve the quality of life of residents who have been vaccinated and who are theoretically protected against the coronavirus. It is true that there are still many uncertainties to be resolved from a scientific point of view about the effectiveness of the vaccines, but studies of their positive impact on the groups that have received them are also emerging on an almost daily basis.
It is a question, as is happening in all countries throughout the pandemic, of finding a balance between physical and mental or psychological health, because what we cannot do is condemn the elderly to live the end of their lives away from their loved ones. If during the first wave we already experienced the drama of people dying alone in their rooms or in ICUs without being able to say goodbye, we are now obliged as a society to do as much as possible to improve their quality of life and also that of their relatives, who are also suffering.
And in the background of this debate we will have to address at some point a profound rethinking of our system of care for the elderly that combines medical care and protection against viruses, the big black hole during the beginning of the pandemic, together with their emotional wellbeing. So far the numbers of deaths and the associated human drama has been so beastly that it has prevented us from seeing the collateral effects of the lockdown. As one relative said at the start of the pandemic, "if they don't die of the virus they will die of sorrow". Mortality in care homes has been reduced, and by a lot. So now it is time for them, after vaccination, to regain a small part of the joy of living.