“My relationship with mum now? I don’t have one. I’m not able to provide her comfort, reassurance, love.”
Mum had been living with me till her dementia, then a heart attack, made a move to the care home necessary two years ago. It was a distance from me, so to supplement my visits I recruited a local, paid-for visitor who visited mum five times a week. My own visits gave us time for me to answer all her questions about the family and where she is and for us to have mother and daughter quality time together. She liked to watch me organise her wardrobe, for us to do jigsaws and drawing – her main hobby was art.
But Coronavirus locked the home down in March. On my first 30-minute limited visit to her in her room, she spent ten minutes in the bathroom. When my time was up, mum was confused and upset, tearful when I left.
From 15th June we were offered only window visits, time-limited, by appointment, with no shelter and the window only open a crack. Chaperoned by care staff there was no privacy. Mum has always disliked being overheard so I knew she would not say if she had any personal or health concerns. We tried a window visit but mum was so upset and confused about why I couldn’t come in, it was just too distressing for her to see me this way. But her paid visitor did see her once a week. Wearing a mask, could mum recognise her though? When she pulled the mask down momentarily to show mum who she was, the chaperone reprimanded her.
I wrote to the manager to highlight the difficulties of window visits, suggesting garden visits where there was plenty of room. With no response I called the home and was assured they were doing their best and I had nothing to worry about.
So there has been no change and I have lost my relationship with mum. I can give her no comfort, no reassurance, no love. I don’t know how she is coping and I worry about her physical health when it’s only me she would tell if she were in pain.
I cannot see how it will end. I’m concerned, too, about carers wearing masks. People with dementia rely on facial expressions, especially smiles and familiar faces. Is there no alternative?
|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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