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Granddaughter volunteers to support her nanna through isolation

My Nanna has been in a care home for the past 2½ years. We share a very close relationship and alongside my mum, I have been a big part of her care for many years. During Covid 19, I have been in a better position than most relatives. When her home announced the family could no longer visit, I couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to see her, so offered to volunteer. I feel extremely grateful and privileged to be allowed to be part of their team and support the residents by helping with activities in the home.

This has enabled me to have contact with Nanna which has been invaluable for her, me, and my mum. However, it has still been tough. I try to help my Nanna understand why my mum can’t visit her. She has dementia and finds it very confusing and upsetting. I feel guilty that it’s me helping instead of my mum, who is desperate to be there. It’s an impossible situation and at times almost unbearable. We grieved having made the decision to put her in a home and we’re grieving again now by being separated from her. We’re not meant to be grieving at all…she is still alive.

It is a catastrophic failure, against all we believe about our right to family life.

I’ve watched the residents change both mentally and physically in a short space of time. They are visibly sad, lonely and confused. A number of residents have not made it and there is no doubt in my mind that for some of them it was because of a broken heart.

I also watch the staff working really hard, going above and beyond their normal roles to care for the residents. It’s a real struggle to keep both their own and the resident’s spirits high. They are now visibly exhausted.

The very people that have contributed to and served our country are now what can only be likened to being in prison. Organised, supervised visits behind a screen! The Christmas lockdown meant even the window visits were restricted. Contact with families via video have been hit and miss as it’s not appropriate for most of the residents who find it confusing and distressing.

By attempting to keep residents safe and protect their lives, we have taken the good bits of their lives away from them. Who knows how much life they have left? But what I do know is that each resident would choose to spend whatever time they have left with their loved ones. Instead, we keep them in isolation. It is a catastrophic failure, against all we believe about our right to family life.

The home had managed to stay pretty much covid free until 3 weeks ago. This put the home into panic and all residents were isolated in their rooms. Nanna has had good and bad days. On some days she is angry (which is new to her) that she can’t leave her room. She has attempted to walk to the door and has fallen. Some days she didn’t recognise me and when I told her it was me she sobbed saying “what have I done to be put here, I’m a prisoner of war, I just want to go home to my mum”.

I have no doubt that her mind is going to be in another complete muddle by coming out of three weeks of isolation today. She will be so confused, disorientated and distressed by the whole thing. I feel so sad and helpless. I’m now planning my Nanna’s 100th birthday in July and absolutely dread if she can’t be with her family on that day.

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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