Freedom to come and go in nursing Homes : the testimony of the Petits Frères des Pauvres in France

Anxious to be the voice of the people accompanied in nursing home and the volunteers who accompany them, the French association of the Petits Frères des Pauvres wished to collect their words and testify of their lived in this so particular period. The data collected and a certain number of proposals were sent to the Minister Delegate for Autonomy, within the framework of a working seminar on the freedom to come and go in nursing home.
Since the lockdown last March, some nursing homes have never really re opened. themselves, others closed their doors in September. While the press regularly reports on this, the association has found it necessary to hear the views of the field teams in order to know their points of view and the reality of the situations they encounter. The questionnaire collected 76 testimonies concerning 205 nursing homes.
They first noted that the health situation has led the elderly people living in nursing homes to abandon their vacation plans (63%). In the majority of cases, it is the nursing homes that refused to allow them to leave (34%), limited them to a day trip or imposed lockdown in a room for fourteen days on their return (8%), which had a dissuasive effect on the residents. Sometimes it was the teams themselves who thought it preferable not to offer a stay this year.

To the question “Have you noticed any changes in the people accompanied in connection with the confinement period from March to May 2020? “the volunteers answered :


However, to the question “how have your institutional visits been going since June 2020? “the answer is “quite well” in 47% of the concerned nursing homes. Links are maintained as much as possible, mainly by telephone, even if a few visits – very supervised – may take place.

To date, 135 of the 205 nursing homes concerned by the questionnaire have decided to lockdown again the residents. Several establishments invoke the precautionary principle and volunteers are often unaware of the duration of this closure.

The words of people accompanied by the association :

  •  “You have to die of something. »
  • “It is from isolation that I will die. »
  • “I’m going to switch off if this goes on too long. Not talking to the volunteers anymore, it makes me sad, being in her room, not seeing my roommate, not eating in the refectory, it’s too hard.”
  • “If I didn’t have my religion, I would kill myself… »
  • “I don’t care about dying, all I want is to be able to talk to my girlfriends.”
  • “It’s too long and too sad.”
  • “I would like to go out and return to a home where I have my freedom.
  • “Before Covid19, I was lonely, now I really understand loneliness, the real thing.

Alerts made by volunteers :

  •  “In one service several people tested negative because they had been in contact with a caregiver who tested positive. They stayed in their room for 7 days and tested negative again and again.
  • “They are faced with a fait accompli and suffer from not being able to participate in collective times.
  • “Many residents felt deprived of their freedom, in prison, deprived of their rights. »
  • “For some residents, we are the only link with the outside world, we try by phone to make them laugh, play games and, above all, reassure them”.
  • “I accompany a gentleman who can no longer express himself verbally. Before the confinement, it took me some time to create a bond of trust. He had become very attentive to my proposals (listening to songs, illustrated books that I read to him…). After weeks of absence, I noticed that he was more in denial than before. Has he felt a sense of abandonment? It is possible… »

The proposals of the Petits Frères des Pauvres :

We recall that the nursing homes are places of life and that any restriction of freedom must be proportionate. Also, the Petits Frères des Pauvres oppose the decisions to close nursing homes as a preventive measure (without a suspicious case of Covid19 ).

– Allowing the elderly to express their preferences and choices

  •  And in particular: Make it mandatory to hold an information meeting for all residents, collect their questions, fears, etc.

– Allows family and friends to stay in touch with their elderly loved one in an ongoing dialogue with the institution.

– Recognize companion volunteers as significant persons

  •  In particular: Do not restrict visits to families only.

– Maximize the circulation of the elderly by putting in place means of rapid detection of the virus.

– Maintaining a collective life within the nursing home

– Guarantee the respect of users’ rights


Find here the results of the survey and the proposals of the Petits Frères des Pauvres to the Minister Delegate for Autonomy (in French). Liberté d’aller et venir en EHPAD enquête et proposition


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