Jenny’s mum Jean has lived in the same care home for the last three years where she’s been happy and settled. She has Alzheimers Dementia. After a major fall at home when she broke her hip, shoulder and knee she was hospitalised and as a result needed 24 hour care. We felt tremendous guilt at placing her into a Home but had no option. It took many months for her to settle but as we had our own business we were able to take time off when we needed and spent three full days with her at the Home. My sisters filled in the other days and so she very rarely spent time alone during the day.
Mum was very well cared for by the staff but – as in many other care homes there was very little in the way of stimulating activity. Myself and Diane worked with the Manager, staff and other relatives and between us introduced a regular programme of fun activities. We also raised funds to pay for entertainers, animal therapy and a regular music and movement instructor. It made a massive difference to all the residents and promoted a sense of community within the Home. Visiting became so much more enjoyable for everyone.
When lock down came mum and all of the other residents were not only cut off from their families – but also denied all of the stimulation that being part of this community gave them. Many residents have and still are experiencing the double isolation of being confined to their rooms as part of the Home’s infection control measures.
Mum can no longer follow the TV and so her days are very long and lonely. We tried to Skype her during lock down but she was confused and bewildered by the technology and so it was distressing all round. We’ve been denied any meaningful contact with our mum since March and there’s still no end in sight. The best families can hope for is a 30 minute outdoor visit, once a week, by the same person which means other family members can only see their loved one by standing on the other side of a window.
How the touch paper was lit!
It was after one of these stressful window visits that we decided to start fighting to change this cruel situation. Mum was sitting at the window alone, in her wheelchair when we arrived. The window was closed and so it was difficult to communicate. When she finally recognised us she broke down and sobbed uncontrollably with her head in her hands. This was hard to cope with as we couldn’t reach out to touch or comfort her in any way and she was heartbroken and alone.
She stuttered the words “I’ll never smile again … it’s been too long”. We were devastated as mum’s nickname in the Home is “Smiler”! The tears were a shock as she’s no shrinking violet, like many of her generation and age she’s a no nonsense, feisty lady with a soft centre. We were forced to phone into the Home to ask one of the carers to come into the lounge to comfort mum, which she did, while we sat and watched powerless to help. Although she was receiving great care, her mental health was deteriorating in front of our eyes. When driving home that day we decided we must act for mum and on behalf of all the others locked up and lonely.
We contacted BBC Radio Merseyside and told them of our plight and they featured our story the very next day. Since then we’ve appeared many times on radio, TV and in newspapers. We set up a Facebook Campaign Group as a way of galvanising others affected by the issue into an effective lobbying force, launched a national petition and so Rights for Residents was born.