Northern Ireland news

Daughter of woman with advanced dementia launches legal challenge over restrictions on care home visits

THE daughter of a woman with advanced dementia has launched legal action over restrictions on visits to her care home.

Martina Ferguson claims a policy of limiting access to her 87-year-old mother Ursula Derry during the pandemic is in breach of their human rights.

Her legal team have lodged papers at the High Court in Belfast seeking an urgent judicial review of the policy operated at residential facilities in Co Armagh.

Christopher Doran of KRW Law said: "There needs to be more flexibility on care home visits to vulnerable and life-limited elderly relatives.

"It is simply intolerable that families cannot visit their loved ones at this very difficult time for everyone."

The challenge comes amid concern at the level of access to elderly relatives in homes across Northern Ireland.

Normal visiting arrangements were suspended back in March during the first wave of the the Covid-19 crisis.

In September guidance issued by the Department of Health encouraged homes to move towards a care partner scheme allowing one designated family member to visit a resident.

With many facilities yet to implement the scheme, families staged a peaceful protest at Stormont on Saturday at the rules.

Mrs Derry suffers from late-stage dementia and is unable to communicate fully.

Before the pandemic her daughter made daily visits to the home, tucking her into bed every night.

But the daily face-to-face contact they shared has been disrupted for the last eight months.

When the pensioner was admitted to hospital in July, Ms Ferguson was said to be "heartbroken" at the state of her mother after 15 weeks of lockdown.

Her lawyers are now seeking a declaration that a policy which dictates when she gets to visit is incompatible with both women's rights to family life.

Mr Doran added: "This case is an attempt to bring a little more balance when assessing the criteria for safe care home visits.

"You cannot ever underestimate the mental health positives of basic human interaction."

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