“For a couple who first met at school aged twelve, the forced absence from each other was terrible to bear.”
My wife Thelma has been in care since May 2018. She has Parkinson’s disease and needs 24hr nursing care. Until Covid-19 hit our land, we enjoyed 3 or 4 days a week blissfully together in her room at the care home, unrestricted by day or time. We would play cards and dominoes and, more up to date, ten pin bowling on my tablet. Or just the simple pleasure of holding hands whilst listening to the radio. We enjoyed a cup of tea together and Thelma always looked forward to the treat l would take her. We often went for a drive ending at a garden centre, Thelma in the wheelchair. Those were happy days.
Lockdown came shortly after I visited on 18th March. At first Thelma could not understand why I was not visiting anymore. For a couple who first met at school aged twelve and married for 62 years, the forced absence from each other was terrible to bear. At this time Thelma wanted some suitable clothes for Spring/Summer weather, so I arranged to take some to the home. So near but so far, I was not allowed to enter and had to leave the parcel at the door, unable to see my wife. I was quite distraught and just sat in the car until I felt safe to drive. However, we were given permission to celebrate our anniversary on 7th June in her room but only for 30 mins, with PPE.
On 2nd July, I wrote to the Home Manager asking if there were plans to allow residents to receive visitors. The reply quoted Government Guidelines and there might be scope for limited visits! On 20th July garden visits were permitted for 30 minutes, once a week. This is a very small step forward but does nothing to mitigate the frustration, anxiety and depression at being unable to meet and greet your loved one in a sociable manner. To see Thelma sitting two metres from me looking frail and dejected brought a lump to my throat.
This cruelty to the elderly residents of care homes must be stopped. They are in care because they need to be. Part of that care is provided by their relatives. Let me, and others like me, back to help. After all, we are still carers!
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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.