Carrigoran House is a centre that provides the full continuum of elder care at Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co. Clare, Ireland. During the pandemic, families and friends of the residents there have had to adapt and be flexible as the rules of the game change frequently. During the initial lockdown in March, visits were suspended and residents and families endured weeks of limited communication. This was mitigated by the availability of Skype calls which were used by many relatives. This was meaningful even in the case of patients with some degree of dementia. But it was hard for all.

We are blessed with wonderful caring staff at Carrigoran who make a big difference. The beauty shop was closed and after a few weeks some residents were having really “bad hair days.” Some of the caregivers are very good hairdressers too. They started placing rollers on the ladies’ hair and that helped a lot, and increased their morale.

Once the restrictions eased, in the summer, visitors were allowed in accordance with social distancing rules. Visits happened at the alcoves near the inner garden. Each alcove was dedicated to one unit and was sanitized after each visitor. Prior to entry, the visitor answered screening questions and got a temperature check. I was privileged to see these reunions and the happiness experienced by the elderly when they saw their beloved relative for the first time after months. It was such joy!

First, only one visitor could come once a week for half an hour, and then it was increased to two visitors for an hour, always keeping social distance. That allowed the grandchildren to come. It could not get better!

Unfortunately, during the last few weeks new restrictions have come and we have had to move from visits in doors to visits outdoors, which take place through the windows. It is a bit cold and impersonal but families do not hesitate to come and warm the hearts of their loved ones.

The most challenging time during this pandemic was during the initial lockdown when a resident was passing away and families could only ring or view how their relative was being anointed through a WhatsApp video. During this new lockdown that just started, visitor restrictions make exceptions for critical or compassionate reasons, thanks be to God!

Recently, as a way to show appreciation to the staff that has been so dedicated and conscientious three delicious free meals were provided at the canteen at different times. Some staff shared that they have even limited their visits to their own relatives in order to minimize the risk of bringing the COVID-19 virus to Carrigoran.

This time has not been easy on anybody but this evening as I went for my walk I saw a rainbow, this beautiful sign of God’s presence that only occurs when there is both rain and sunshine.

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