Impact of care home lockdown hell revealed as families finally reunite with loved ones

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Isolation took a terrible toll on care home residents, but now that coronavirus restrictions are being eased, there will be no limit on the number of visitors allowed

Marion Searle pictured with her family in November 2021
Marion Searle pictured with her family in November 2021

The families of care home residents were “ecstatic” tonight as it was revealed visiting restrictions would be lifted in England on Monday.

There will be no limit on the number of visitors allowed in care homes, while self-isolation periods will also be cut and homes will follow outbreak management rules for 14 rather than 28 days.

Diane Mayhew, co-founder of Rights for Residents, who has campaigned against care home restrictions, said she could have “cried with relief” after the “inhumane” rules were finally ditched.

She said: “It has been hell so this is a huge step forward and we’re ecstatic. This has been a nightmare for families.”

Isolation took a terrible toll on care home residents and families want their right to visits from an “essential care supporter” enshrined in “Gloria’s Law”, named after the mother of actress Ruthie Henshall, who was her mum’s essential caregiver before her death.

Marion Searle pictured during lockdown

One essential caregiver, Karen Rogers, 53, released a shocking set of pictures of her mother Marion Searle to show how she was “totally destroyed” after being separated from her family in lockdown.

At one stage Karen, from Plymouth, feared her 76-year-old mum, a great grandmother who has mixed dementia, would die in isolation.

Karen said: “Her family were her world. My mum declined so much when we couldn’t get in. She was put on anti-psychotic drugs to calm her down and ended up like a zombie.

“She now can’t walk because she didn’t get the physio she needed when her muscles became so weak.

“For a year we had window visits and she didn’t understand why. This should never happen again, it’s inhumane.” Marion had wept when her great grandchildren went to see her through the window after 10 months.

Karen said: “She wasn’t talking before and now you can have a conversation with her. It shows how important that contact is.”

Karen Rogers and her mum Marion at her old care home

Marion’s care home has been on a rolling lockdown since a Covid outbreak at Christmas so the rest of the family still won’t be able to go in on Monday.

Birgit Clark, from Surrey, whose daughter Franziska, 26, has severe learning difficulties and lives in a care home in Cheshire, said there would be “fireworks going off” if she was allowed in on Monday.

She has not been inside the home for close to two years, although she has seen Franziska outside and taken her on trips.

Birgit said: “It is a victory and it is a step in the right direction but it doesn’t mean we are there yet until we go back to where we were. We need Gloria’s Law.

“Until we get rid of those rolling lockdowns a lot of care homes will still be like prisons.” Michelle Cunningham, from Bournemouth, told how her mum de Ella Hazel, 93, rallied after she was allowed in as an essential care giver. She said: “At first she was just staring at the wall. I went in every day for two months until one day she smiled and it was the first time I’d seen her smile from her for two years.

Marion will now be allowed to see her family

Her mum has now moved care homes and Michelle, who visits most days, said: “Yesterday she was talking about The Chase. I told her, ‘I got all of them right’. She told me, ‘Stop showing off’. It is so heartening to see her return to how she was.”

Julia Knight, 67, from Lincoln, whose 92-year-old mum Evelyn Church is in a care home, said: “I have been one of the lucky ones because my mum’s care home interpreted all the guidelines wisely and humanely.

“I hope all the other homes do the same. It’s been terrible as loved ones have felt abandoned. Some people feel loved ones gave up and died of a broken heart.”

Ruth Adams, 68, whose son Sam, 34, is in a residential home battled to see him until she got him moved to a new home in Bexhill, East Sussex, in July.

The home let Ruth and her family celebrate a belated birthday with Sam. She said: “The difference in Sam since I was allowed in has been phenomenal. He smiles a lot and laughs. His mental health is massively improved.

“He was sat in his chair 17 hours a day at his old home. Now, I am part of the care team and it’s made everything better. But there are thousands who are still not getting quality access to their loved ones.”

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I know how vital companionship is to those living in care homes.

“I urge care homes to do all they can to allow as many visitors as they can. But if a care home needs to act a bit differently due to an outbreak then that is understandable.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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