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Living in isolation: using poetry to get through COVID

“The lack of contact with other residents was really hard. It was very lonely, I felt so isolated.”

 

Life in my care home before the pandemic was idyllic, too good to be true in retrospect. My days were filled with activities including a poetry group, guest speakers, a music and movement group, crafts or sitting in the lounge with my puzzles. Because I am from Yorkshire I really enjoyed hearing other residents read aloud at the poetry group and loved hearing their accents. I liked my routine and it felt like my refuge. My daughter would visit me once a week, and my grandson with this two children.

Patricia

Once the pandemic arrived, the thing that changed the most – and the worst thing – was staff wearing masks. You can’t see peoples’ expressions and you can’t always hear what they are saying. The lack of contact with other residents was really hard. I missed those that I had made friends with and used to meet for coffee. It was very lonely, I felt so isolated.

The worst two weeks were when I had a temperature and had to be barrier nursed. Being tied to the room was horrendous. My door was kept closed and staff had to wear full PPE when they came in. I even had to use disposable crockery for my meals. I would ask the staff for news about my friends in the home. I didn’t have a mobile phone so couldn’t call anyone. Every day I would pray that someone would take me round the garden – we weren’t allowed out of our rooms or in the garden on our own.

We started having outdoor visits on 1st June, by then I hadn’t seen my daughter for three months. This was hard because of the social distance and with her wearing a mask I couldn’t hear her very well. I felt vulnerable, empty and alone, like there was no joy in my life. Once we were allowed indoor visits again, that was fantastic and I could hear her better. The housekeeper gave me her old mobile phone so I was able to talk to my family. Speaking to my twin sister in Australia was a breakthrough and a red letter day.

I hated lockdown, hated the isolation. It was lonely but I did not feel frightened. I have always been independent. I had to fight mentally to survive. I noticed that my voice was weaker as I just wasn’t talking so much. I made myself read poetry every day out loud. I felt the isolation was detrimental to my health. I tried to be positive and when the staff would ask me how I was I would try to come up with as many different adjectives as I could such as ‘fabulous’, ‘fantastic’ and even ‘stupendous’! I asked my daughter to send me a thesaurus so that I could look up more words. I was kept going by the weekly letter and poem the care home manager wrote for us every week. I have such admiration for the care staff, they did their very best. I felt safe and secure and lucky that I was here.

Patricia King, 92, Tunbridge Wells

 

R&RA are campaigning to End Isolation In Care. Find out how you can get involved here.

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this story, or would like advice or support on visiting your relative or friend in care, our helpline is here for you.


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