Thousands of care home residents have been kept inside for the past 12 months, leading to claims they are worse off than prisoners.
Some care homes have been stopping residents from going outside into garden areas since the beginning of the pandemic, while others are forcing residents to spend up to 14 days in isolation every time they go to hospital.
In one particularly distressing example, a resident was subject to the strict isolation rules after visiting a hospital emergency department on three occasions over a four-week period. In another example, a care home resident attended his daughter's wedding and had to spend the next 14 days living in a specially set up isolation room.
This is despite the fact staff are able to socialise and mix with family and friends outside of work and return to the care homes without isolating for 14 days.
Bernadine McCrory of the Alzheimer's Society criticised the current arrangements in place in many homes.
A range of restrictions were implemented to protect residents from Covid-19, but after more than 12 months it is believed they are actually resulting in extreme suffering for many residents.
"There's no doubt that people with dementia are coming to harm at the moment and, in fact, people are dying from social isolation," said Ms McCrory.
"Northern Ireland's chief social worker has said that himself, which is an extreme comment coming from someone in his position, but he is absolutely right.
"Families of care home residents are telling us that their loved ones are losing their communication skills, they are seeing a very definite decline in their overall health.
"We still have a situation where agency staff are working in different homes yet care home residents and their families have to follow very strict rules to stop outbreaks.
"For a person with dementia, having their personal belongings around them, having that consistency, is so important so it is concerning that care home residents may not be isolating in their own rooms.
"Covid isn't going away and care homes really need to be thinking outside the box on how they're going to manage the virus from now on, we can't just keep on following the status quo."
Julieann McNally from Care Home Advice & Support NI has called for the Department of Health to urgently produce a proper exit strategy for the care home sector.
She said: "Restrictions have been put in place for the safety of the residents and everyone accepts that, but it is time for a little bit of common sense.
"Staff are allowed to come and go, they're allowed to go home and spend time with their families and meet friends under the regulations, they can go to the shop or for medical appointments, and they don't have to isolate before returning to work.
"Many care home residents haven't stepped across the door for a breath of fresh air in over a year now.
"Care homes are supposed to be their home but they're more like a prison. In fact, prisoners are better off because at least they're allowed outside.
"Covid-19 isn't going to go away and we need to learn how to protect care home residents without actually causing them harm as a result of infection control measures, which is exactly what is happening now."
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: "This an extremely challenging time for all and the approach to managing this crisis has meant that many difficult requests have been made of the public around health service provision, especially regarding presence within nursing and residential care homes.
"The Department would stress that restrictions are put in place for the safety of residents, families, staff and the wider population.
'There are very many considerations in the management of safe visiting arrangements and we can advise that work is underway to provide information for residents, families and care homes of how each impacts and supports each other as we move towards, as near as possible, normal business for care homes.'