“Why can’t you come and visit me?” Are you too busy to see me?” “Have you forgotten about me?” “Why can’t I come out of here?”
Heartbreaking questions my mum repeatedly asked me this week. She thinks her family have abandoned her and has no idea how hard we’re fighting to be allowed in to see her or how heartbroken we are at not being allowed to see her.
The last meaningful visit we had was in March. Since then, I’ve been allowed to see her twice in the garden of the Home (at a two metre distance, wearing masks) and once through a closed window. When we saw her in the garden in August, we were shocked to see how she’d deteriorated; she looked exactly like someone who’d been locked away for months. It’s now October and she’s still shut away.
My mum went into a care home last year when she was no longer able to continue living alone. Before lock down she loved the varied entertainment programme, the walks along the sea front and the twice weekly outings offered by the care home. We would also visit or take her out at least four days a week – usually more. Mum was happy and safe and our family was content.
During the spring and summer everyone else was encouraged to “eat out to help out” and to enjoy the good weather. Mum could only look out of the window and watch while everyone else enjoyed fresh air and exercise. The care home staff are great but they aren’t family and they can’t be mum’s memory when she gets confused. She has moderate dementia and has a very bad short term memory.
The staff tell us “She’s fine” but we don’t know if this is true as she certainly doesn’t sound fine when I talk to her on the phone. No Doctors are visiting and the CQC are limited to telephone inspections (however that works). Is anyone checking what’s happening inside? I believe the carers are doing a great job but it scares me that I don’t actually know that as I haven’t been inside the home for seven months.
I’ve offered many times to be an unpaid employee in the home. I can cut hair, I can be a Carer (all relatives of dementia patients are carers – that doesn’t stop). I could organise the Face Time calls, arrange Covid-safe visits for residents, take Covid tests, wear PPE and willingly self isolate. All offers have been ignored by the Care Home owners. Shockingly, they wrote and told me to accept their visiting restrictions or they would give us 30 days notice to evict my Mum (I since discovered that this is not an uncommon practice!!).
I can’t leave my Mum simply to die of loneliness and isolation. I’ve written to MPs, the CQC and my local council. All tell me that the Government guidance leaves the decisions around visiting to the private sector care homes. They can decide to lock everyone in and there’s nothing we can do about it. I’m heartbroken and furious that this is being allowed to happen in the UK today.
Care homes are being paid upwards of £1000 to keep people imprisoned. We’ve become so desperate that we’re looking into bringing mum home to live with us. This would mean changing our lives, our home and giving up our work to care for her full time but we simply can’t allow this to continue. I will continue to fight for my mum’s right to a family life. They have to let us in – it’s barbaric.