RESIDENTS of a nursing home earmarked for closure could be separated from their families for months while settling into new accommodation.
Care homes across Northern Ireland have banned visitors to their premises in a bid to keep residents safe and protect staff from the spread of Covid-19.
The pandemic has come at a disastrous time for the 39 residents of Ravenhill Private Nursing Home as they face the harrowing upheaval of a move without the support of their loved ones.
It is likely to be particularly distressing for residents living with dementia, learning disabilities and brain injuries.
Amanda Keightley has said she is concerned that her 44-year-old husband, Tom, will struggle to adjust in his new surroundings without regular visits from family.
Mr Keightley was left profoundly disabled after suffering a cardiac arrest in September 2016 and his wife spent nine months finding suitable accommodation once he was deemed well enough to be discharged from hospital.
"I just don't know how I am going to find somewhere that will be able to meet Tom's needs as they are very specialised," she said.
"Ravenhill is also perfect because we live in Carrick and it is close to us, meaning that we can pop in whenever we want to see Tom."
The couple have two children, Holly (12) and 10-year-old Harry, and Amanda, also 44, said she is terrified at the impact the move will have on the youngsters.
"It's going to be very difficult for them worrying about whether their dad is settling in okay in his new home given the fact they won't be able to go and visit him and see where he is living," she continued.
"They won't be able to see his room, they won't be able to see him to know that he is okay.
"It's such a worrying time.
"This closure couldn't have come at a worse time, really, and I really don't understand how a home can just close down like this."
Tom was at work when he collapsed suddenly and was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital.
Amanda was warned it was unlikely that her husband would ever wake up.
However, he defied medical predictions and regained consciousness, although he cannot speak or walk and he is tube-fed after his brain was starved of oxygen as a result of his heart failing.
"He can't communicate, he's in a wheelchair, he needs 24-hour care, but we believe that he watches television and he's aware of his surroundings," Amanda said.
"I just don't see how I will find somewhere that can cater to his complex needs and I'm terrified that he will end up miles away or even in hospital until somewhere better comes up and then he could end up being moved twice."
The owner of the home announced the closure at the end of last month, despite prior reassurances that its future was safe. A Change.org petition calling for Health Minister Robin Swann to intervene has been set up.