COVID-19: Misery for residents in care homes and their families due to coronavirus

My mum’s care home emails.

Following the latest round of testing, none of the residents has coronavirus.

Good news, you might think.

But visiting – already suspended for two weeks – will remain forbidden.

Thus, none of the residents – all triple jabbed – is infected, and only a few of them (some special circumstances apply) can see their family.

Image:
Andy and his mum shortly before the pandemic

The catch, at my mum’s care home, is that some members of staff are positive.

Under rules that have been in place for months, two positive tests among either residents, or staff, mean at least 14 days of restricted visiting.

If, on the 13th day, a new case appears, then the period of enforced isolation rolls on.

Partly because the Omicron variant is so transmissible, some care homes have effectively been in lockdown since before Christmas.

The group Rights for Residents campaigns for better access.

Some of the stories on its Twitter feed are harrowing.

One person said: “Spoke to my dad on the phone. He said hello, my heart melted. Not seen (him) for five weeks now.”

Another wrote: “Mum’s care home – one of the carers’ children has COVID so home locked down for 14 days, no visitors. If another child diagnosed, 14 days starts again. This is cruel!!!!”

My mum’s home – as frustrated by the rules as my sister and me are – has offered us a “pod visit”.

Almost two years since the first lockdown, we are being given the opportunity to “visit” our 84-year-old mother, who has severe dementia and does not speak anymore, through a pane of glass.

For a visit to be meaningful we need to get close. While we are not sure that mum recognises us, a hug or a hand placed gently on her shoulder are things that bring her comfort. And we hope that perhaps, on a deep, instinctive level, she does still know who we are.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in the Commons on Wednesday that Health Secretary Sajid Javid would be updating plans for care homes in the “coming days”.

Residents and their families are hoping the two infection rule will be dropped.

Mr Javid himself told Sky News on Thursday that COVID is probably never going away.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We appreciate how important care and companionship from visitors is for the health and wellbeing of care home residents and we are doing everything we can to support care providers to facilitate safe visits.

“Our priority continues to be the safety of care home residents and we continue to keep guidance under review in line with the latest public health advice.”