Politics 05/02/2021

Elderly people will be able to leave care homes in order to vote

The Generalitat warns people not to take advantage of the situation to go out for lunch with families

3 min
Ors de Barclona Residence. Pere Virgili

BarcelonaIt has been months since most of them do not set foot on the street and families can barely visit them, but on election day the elderly may leave their care homes to go vote. This is stated in a document that the Department of Health sent on Thursday to the homes, which lists a series of measures that will have to be taken to avoid possible contagions.

For example, it is "essential" that the elderly people who leave their homes to vote wear an FFP2 face mask, and sign a responsible declaration document. Likewise, it is recommended that they do not use public transport to go to the polling station, that they have their ballot paper prepared already, and that they do not touch any objects while they are out and, if they do touch something, that they clean their hands immediately with hydroalcoholic gel. When they return to the centre they will have to wash their hands and change their clothes -which will have to be washed at 60 degrees centigrade-. In addition, the staff will have to disinfect shoes and wheelchairs with bleach. Most importantly: elderly people are warned not to take advantage of the situation to go out for lunch with their families.

Reality is very different

"Going to the polling station with the ballot paper already prepared is complicated, because care homes have not received ballots", Dr. Vicente Botella, president of the employer's Unió de Petites i Mitjanes Residències (Upimir) (Union for Small and Medium-Sized Care Homes), says. He also recalls that the Department of Health provides FFP2 face masks for the staff of the homes but not for users, so if someone wants to go to vote, the family will have to provide them with the mask. And there is no need to talk about the extra work that will be involved for the retirement homes if the elderly people go out to vote. It is not that the centers are opposed to the right to vote, Dr. Botella clarifies - but they are tired of being asked to perform all of these extra tasks by the Generalitat.

An example: Natàlia Sánchez Faure is a nurse at the Jubany care home in Barcelona, where 38 elderly people currently live. For just over a week, homes have had to do antigen tests on visiting relatives. "The Generalitat says that relatives can take the sample and do the test themselves, but how can I let someone who has no idea, take the tube and put the reagent in it?" Sánchez Faure asks, who, like Dr. Botella, thinks that the Government's recommendations are all very well in theory, but it is difficult to make them a reality.

Sánchez Faure must also perform PCR tests to diagnose coronavirus to all workers of the care home once every fortnight, take the temperature of the residents daily, fill out countless forms and records that did not exist before, make telematic consultations with medical specialists because now it is recommended that the elderly avoid going to visit primary healthcare units or hospitals, and emotionally support the residents, because if they cannot be with their families, someone has to fill this gap. In short, she has seen how her job has been stretched like chewing gum. "I don't mind working as long as it takes", she says. The problem is that while she does all this she does not attend users - she does not do her nursing job.

The Generalitat does not forbid the elderly to take short trips out of the care homes, for example to go for a walk with their family. It does, however, actively and passively discourage it. In practice no one leaves, Dr. Botella says. Therefore, what will happen on February 14? The president of Upimir explains that some elderly people - "very few" - have already voted by mail after their families presented a medical certificate proving that they are in a nursing home. On election day, the doctor predicts, few will go to vote, and if they do, it will be more because of the family than out of their own choice.