“We all have to be very careful”

The period of corona-related lockdown was "a social catastrophe" for residents of elderly care facilities, says Peter Krucker, chairman of the Cologne Caritas Association. In the face of rising numbers, he expresses concern and urges caution.

Interviewer: This complete isolation of relatives and friends: What specifically has that meant for people in geriatric care facilities?

Peter Krucker (Chairman of the Caritas Association of the City of Cologne): This was simply a social disaster. People in nursing homes in particular are dependent on having visitors for their mental state, for their catching. That they have contacts with their relatives and friends. Of course, it was a very problematic situation for the people that they were not allowed to see anyone for weeks. We have tried to absorb this a bit in the facilities, and have instructed staff to seek as much personal contact with the residents as possible.

We have used digital media. The employees have instructed the elderly to also use digital media, i.e. to compensate to a certain extent with video telephony and so forth. But this is always only a small attempt to compensate for something. Personal contact, looking at people, smiling and sometimes touching them or taking them in your arms is the elixir of life for all people, and especially for the elderly.

Interviewer: All the nicer is the news that visits are currently possible again. Under what circumstances?

Krucker: Yes, since July, visits have been allowed again. It has to be a bit more regulated than it used to be. In the past, you could more or less go and come when you wanted to. We now need a registration and screening procedure. People have to report to the gate and we write down their data.

We do a fevermeng for visitors and also have some regulation that residents get a maximum of two visits a day with a maximum of two people. That is a small restriction for the people in old people's homes who have had a lot of visits. But on average, it actually covers the normal visits that were always there before.

Interviewer: Does everyone go along with that, or do they sometimes struggle with relatives who don't see it and who push to get back to normal even more??

Krucker: The vast majority of people go along with it. With the many facilities we have and the many visitors who then come to the facility, there are always a few individuals who then quibble a bit. But on the whole, things are actually going very well.

Interviewer: Of course, this also ties up manpower. Are those who are concerned with the observance of these rules missing in care?

Krucker: No, they are not missing in care. These are administrative staff who do that. But it is really the case that we now have to deploy more personnel resources here in order to ensure that the visits can be organized. This will not work in the long run. But we ame that we will have to make the scenario longer like this. That's why we're already in talks with the health insurers about increasing the number of administrative staff in the centers for the elderly.

Interviewer: How great is your personal fear that another lockdown could come??

Krucker: I am really worried. If you look at the current figures for infections, there is every reason to be concerned. I think we all have to be very careful to keep the numbers reasonably in the manageable range, so that we don't end up with these massive restrictions again.

I am convinced that if there are restrictions and if there should be a lockdown again, it will be rather limited regionally. But the big cities always have a particular potential for danger, and we here in Cologne are already a bit worried too.

The interview was conducted by Verena Troster.

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