My mother, Octavia, was warm and kind, the sort of person who would say hello to people on the street. She was interested in everyone and when she went into care this didn’t change. She would ask the care staff their name and where they were from, writing it in her diary so that she could always call them by their name. She was playful, had a cheeky sense of humour and was a fighter. Before the pandemic I would visit her 3 times a week, taking in home-cooked food and joining her for a game of skittles which she played with the other residents.
Then came lockdown and at first we could only communicate through phone calls. When the receptionist let me use his phone for a video call, it was only a few days into lockdown but already mum was unable to speak. Her glow and warmth had all but disappeared. She went from being chatty and writing in her diary daily to being unable to talk and write, within days. Her deterioration was so rapid and all consuming.
Communication from the home was sporadic, it felt like a battle to find out how mum was. When I asked questions, I was told she was fine. I pushed for a window visit and mum looked awful, her face drawn and sunk, instead of sitting in her chair, she lay immobile on her bed. The doctor told me she had a UTI, but they were only seeing her over video. During the same phone call, I queried her rapid breathing and the doctor said he would look at the possibility of a chest infection. I was then told to prepare for end of life.
Mum died in my arms on 16 April. My sister and I were granted an end-of-life visit. I was able to comfort her at the end.
I was hugely concerned by the lack of testing and PPE but I felt powerless, that no-one independent was overseeing what was happening or listening to us. We still have so many unanswered questions about what happened and what could have been done differently. These will have to be addressed, for my mum, for accountability and so that we can all learn lessons.
|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.
“It was hugely helpful to be able to talk to the R&RA helpline and get personal support and empathy for our situation. The guidance R&RA gave me felt empowering even though it was too late to change things for mum.” Himani