Functional capacity and communication with family members or close friends supported even under emergency conditions
Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has updated instructions on prevention of coronavirus infections in units providing 24-hour care and treatment

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 15.5.2020 17.49
Press release 119/2020

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has issued municipalities and service providers with updated instructions on how to prevent coronavirus infections in units providing 24-hour care and treatment. The new instructions replace those issued on 9 April 2020.

The updates concern particularly the use of masks by staff members in care and treatment units, measures to support the functional capacity of clients, and possibilities to improve their communication with family members or other people close to them. The instructions also apply to all housing units for people with disabilities which accommodate clients belonging to at-risk groups.

Use of masks in units providing 24-hour care and treatment

People working in close contact with clients must wear disposable surgical nose-mouth masks. If they are not available or it is not possible to wear them for some other reason, the staff must wear washable or disposable fabric masks or visors covering their face and mouth in order to protect their clients from any diseases that they may be carrying.

Separate instructions have been issued on protective measures when working with patients suffering from respiratory infections or infected by the coronavirus.
On 13 May, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health issued a decision ordering those working in close contact with clients to wear a mask in social welfare units providing 24-hour care and in home care services. The aim is to protect clients with an elevated risk of becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Communication with family members or close friends supported, despite the ban on visits

As a rule, visits to units providing 24-hour care and treatment are still prohibited. Asymptomatic family members or close friends should, however, be allowed to visit seriously ill clients who are in a critical state and clients in hospice care, provided that safety precautions are taken. Consideration must be given to permitting visits on a case-by-case basis.

The emergency conditions have continued for a long time now, and for this reason, we need practices that allow other residents or clients to meet their family members or others close to them face-to-face in a safe environment provided by their care or treatment unit.

Units can set up places or rooms for their clients where they can meet and communicate with their family members or close friends in a safe manner. These could be moveable modules that could possibly be placed in a safe place inside the premises, for example in the lobby, or outside. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) collects good practices and publishes information on them on its website at thl.fi.

Because of the ban, elderly people and some people with disabilities have not seen or heard from their family members or close friends for a long time. This affects their quality of life negatively, and many clients also find it difficult to understand this. Family members or close friends are encouraged to contact clients also by phone, email or letter or by via remote connection, for example. The staff of the care and treatment units must support clients in their communications.

Particular attention placed on maintenance of functional capacity

Clients must be provided with the services they need and the activities maintaining their functional capacity and wellbeing, despite the emergency conditions. Daily activities for clients can be rearranged. Instead of group activities and shared meal times for the whole unit, the daily activities could take place in small groups comprising only a few people with due consideration to maintaining a safe distance. 

Being able to spend time outdoors plays a key role in maintaining both mental and physical functional capacities. It is, therefore, important to make it possible for clients to engage in various outdoor activities even under emergency conditions. Family members or close friends can also take part in outdoor activities during their visits, provided that safety precautions are taken.

It is particularly important that the units themselves carry out and, where possible, increase the activities aimed at promoting functional capacity and wellbeing by making a good use of the skills and expertise of their staff

Inquiries:

Satu Karppanen, Ministerial Adviser, [email protected] (services for elderly people)
Seija Viljamaa, Senior Specialist, [email protected] (services for the elderly people)
Kirsi-Maria Malmlund, Lawyer, [email protected] (services for people with disabilities)
Anne-Mari Raassina, Ministerial Adviser, [email protected] (services for people with disabilities)
Kaisa Halinen, Senior Medical Officer, [email protected] (healthcare)