As the UK and world cases of Covid-19 rises and more societies go into lockdown, so the pressure and mental anguish on families increases causing even more pain than covid-19 itself. The UK government is failing to provide care homes with the simple tools they need to relieve much of this pressure on families. The stance of many governments during covid-19 is to protect lives but not to protect families, relationships and communities. In their push to ‘Protect’ lives, they have forgotten the basic needs of humanity, which is family, interaction and communication. The UK government is failing families and the elderly in care homes during covid-19 in several major ways that many seem not to notice or speak about – Contact, communication and interaction.
I will focus on my own experience which I am sure is happening all over the UK to thousands of families who have parents, grandparents or loved ones in care. At this point I will not mention the name of the care home or the people involved. Our mother has just turned 80 years of age and has Parkinson’s. She has been in a care home for almost a year since covid-19 broke out. The care home was only supposed to be a temporary fix while we as a family figured out how to give her better care as the Parkinsons became more extreme. It became almost impossible to care for her continually at her home. A home she has lived in for over 40 years. However, we like many others were not expecting Covid-19 and all that followed and she has been locked away in that home ever since.
Before she was in this care home, her home was always full of visiting siblings, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, members of the community were always stopping by, her life was always full of contact, love and interaction. We had set up video conferencing so members of her family in Jamaica and America could always call and speak to her. In fact, it got to the point when we hardly had a moment of peace because there was always someone coming in, going out, or calling to speak to mum.
Almost overnight, she went from that scenario to being locked down in a care home, where we could only see her through a glass window. It seemed like you were visiting an inmate in prison only no chair or microphone was provided. We have to stand outside a window that is cracked open and speak to her when they have a moment to wheel her to that window. No, longer is she surrounded by the love of family and friends, no longer can she eat the West Indian foods she loves that we prepared every day for her with love. Now, she is alone and isolated from the kids she struggled so hard to bring up. Now we can only bring her food and pass it through the window and ask them to make sure she eats it. Sometimes we can stand there freezing in the cold and watch her eating the food we prepare, sometimes we can’t.
We have watched our mother slowly lose weight and become frailer, We have had to deal with her being wheeled up to the window with bruises sustained when she has a fall. We cannot hold her, we cannot comfort her, we can only speak to her through the window. The emotional stress on our family going down to the grandchildren is telling. This is not even a matter of money, because the rules dictated by the government would mean it would be the same in any care-home.
Some of this cannot be helped, but certain things have been totally overlooked and the most important of these is communication. We have been able to have several group video meetings with my mother during this time but this is hardly enough. The care home has no real facility for video communication, basic wifi and just cannot get it together. The phone and things we had for our mother have gone missing, and she cannot operate them without guidance and help. The staff in the homes are pushed and overworked and find this hard to do. There is no provision in care homes for communication and interaction. There is no mandate to ensure that families can be with their loved ones. It’s all about vaccines and lockdowns, PPE and other things. So while the governments look to assure the public that they are dealing with the obvious, they fail to deal with the things that are just as important and needed, contact, communication, love and family. In fact, it seems that UK government policy is directly trying to isolate and destroy families during this pandemic.
Now our mother has been diagnosed with Covid-19 and has to be isolated for at least 10 days. This means even the ‘Prison type’ visits through the window are no longer an option. Even if we dressed up in Hazmat suits [A hazmat suit is a piece of personal protective equipment that consists of an impermeable whole-body garment worn as protection against hazardous materials. Such suits are often combined with self-contained breathing apparatus to ensure a supply of breathable air] the care home will not let us visit our own mother. Therefore, the only thing we can do is video conference with our mother, but the care home does not have the facility to do this leaving us having to ask members of staff to find the time to use their phones to do this.
I am sure many of the things we are going through as a family are being echoed all over the UK and beyond. We as families and people no longer have any control over our loved ones, it is slowly being eroded and taken away all for our ‘greater good and safety’. Every day for my mother is a bonus right now and Covid-19 is not going anywhere soon. The vaccine raises more questions than answers and in her final years, she is being deprived of the thing that means more to her than anything else (besides her relationship with God), her family. Her children which she struggled to bring up over the years. I am sure she packed all her belongings in a small case and came to the UK for a better life she was prepared for many things including the exclusion and racism she encountered, but not to be separated from her children and grandchildren in this way.
Covid-19 is here to stay, make no mistake about that. Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluded. If that is the case then isn’t it about time the UK Government starts to put plans in place to protect the family, relationships, ensure communication and contact with loved ones especially those in care homes. Is it not the time for the UK Government and our leaders to start thinking about putting policies in place to ensure the survival, mental and emotional health of families? If, they can’t is it not about time they leave us to take care of our own emotional and mental needs as families without constantly telling us no? Why is communication not a priority in care homes? Why is family contact not a priority?
It is very clear that the UK Government policy is not concerned with protecting the family or keeping the family unit alive and vibrant. In this respect, they are failing families and especially the elderly locked away in care homes. We are fighting a battle with the care home to resolve these problems. I am sure all over the UK battles like this are being fought. If you have a story and wish to share it with us, contact us here we will share it with the world contact us at Globalnewsink@gmail.com Our story is not over, in fact, it is only just beginning and it will be told.