'After 70 years of marriage, my dad can't say bye to my mum' - Telegraph readers on care homes

Telegraph Readers
·9-min read
Cleaning company Swish are going into the Edgemont View Nursing Home which has suffered with multiple Covid-19 deaths, for free for a specialist decontamination to help staff and residents in the prevention of further spread of the virus within the care home Edgemont View Nursing Home in Oldland Common -  Paul Grover/ Paul Grover
Cleaning company Swish are going into the Edgemont View Nursing Home which has suffered with multiple Covid-19 deaths, for free for a specialist decontamination to help staff and residents in the prevention of further spread of the virus within the care home Edgemont View Nursing Home in Oldland Common - Paul Grover/ Paul Grover

Telegraph readers were brought to tears this week after Robert Styler, who listens to Allison Pearson's and Liam Halligan's Planet Normal podcast, shared the heartbreaking story of how he has been unable to hold his wife due to Covid-19 restrictions in care homes. 

In response, Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson penned an open letter to Care Minister, Helen Whately, urging her to reconsider restrictions that are preventing Britons from visiting loved ones. 

Readers have not only thrown their support behind the open letter, but they have also shared touching stories of how they have been unable to visit family members in care homes.

Some readers have even had to live with the knowledge that loved ones have died alone, without the comfort of a familiar voice. 

'My father-in-law was forced to die alone'

@Clare Roullier:

"My father-in-law was forced to die alone in a care home. We were not allowed to visit him or hold his hand for the two and half months before he died.

"His wife who was in the same care home was not allowed to see him or to attend his funeral (neither of them had Covid).

"My mother-in-law has not been allowed a hug, kiss or any physical comfort since he died and we have only been allowed to visit each other in the garden at a two metre distance.Now we can't visit at all as they have implemented the government guideline of only one nominated visitor so one member of the family is the only person allowed to visit Mum (but still socially distanced).

"We can only speak to her on the phone and she keeps getting upset that we are not visiting. I wrote to my MP about this and got a template email response telling me 'the measures were proportionate'."

'My mum didn't even recognise me because of my face mask'

@Lilac Dreams:

"My mum's care home is a three hour drive away. Due to her dementia she was only barely remembering me when I last made a proper visit in February.  

"I have seen her since a couple of times for the hour visit, socially distanced in a mask.  She didn't recognise me. 

"On one visit, my mum wandered off as she feels safest in her bedroom but I am not allowed in. It took me longer to have my temp taken, sign in, wash my hands than it did for the visit with her. The second time lasted barely 20 minutes before she went off again. Like many other families this is not the ending I'd envisioned for my Mum. 

"I am torn because I work in a residential setting for adults with learning disabilities. We have to follow care home guidance - I am not sure if the Government have even thought about people with learning disabilities that live in residential settings.  

"As I say, I am very torn but firmly agree that we all live with risk every day of our lives, Covid-19 is no different. Yes, the risk is great for the vulnerable but peoples liberty, mental health and right to family life are also paramount."

Planet Normal Podcast - 29th October
Planet Normal Podcast - 29th October

'After 70 years of marriage, my dad was unable to say bye to my mum before she died'

@JT Carroll:

"My mother who suffered from dementia had to go into a care home in early March as her GP refused to visit her and she could no longer support herself. We already had a 24/7 live in carer for her and my father who have been together for 70 years.

"Due to Covid we could not visit her and skyping her or talking on the phone did not reassure either parent that all was well with the other. Eventually, having spent her 92nd birthday alone we were allowed to see her, by then she was unresponsive and did not recognise or acknowledge us.

"We were allowed to see her one final time wearing full PPE prior to her death at the beginning of June, she did not have Covid, nor did anyone at the care home. My father has not accepted that she has gone, he did not get a chance to say goodbye as he couldn't hug or hold her hand. He continues to ask me if I have heard from her or know how she is. He is now 96 and has full time live in care, we will do are very best to keep him at home where we can at least visit and reassure him of our love.

"The treatment of care homes in this pandemic has been one of the lows, they have had patients who either had or had not been tested for Covid dumped on them to clear NHS beds"

'We had no send off for my father'

@John Galt:

"My father was in a care home with alzheimer's and after a year he developed cancer. He lasted for another two years and myself and the rest of the family prepared ourselves emotionally for the inevitable, which happened in March this year when he died in his 90s (not from Covid).

"As stated, we were prepared for this, however we were not prepared for not being able to attend his funeral and giving him a heart felt send off with all his friends and family at his favourite eatery."

'My wife no longer recognises me'

@Leonard Sellwood:

"While I greatly sympathise with some families, I would like to put a small counterargument. My wife is also in care with dementia and I have not seen her since before the initial lockdown as her care home anticipated the problems to come, so far they have had no Covid-19.

"When I did visit her my wife did not know me and walked away after a few seconds, dementia exhibits many forms and with her there is no empathy and little or no communication. So for me there is no 'good' reason to visit during the pandemic, she is unlikely to benefit from my visit and I run the risk of taking the virus into the home.

"I make this point so that a 'one size fits all' solution is not demanded and all aspects are considered in relation to access to care homes."

'My mother doesn't know who I am'

@Flossy McKewen:

"My own mother has advanced dementia and is locked away in her home with her fellow residents, all of whom have deteriorated rapidly during lockdown. All for their own protection of course.

"I have now come to to terms with the fact that I will lose my mother whilst this debacle is going on and am powerless to do anything. I cannot bring my mother home as she requires 24 hour care.

"Relatives of the residents have to respect the guidelines of the care home, who have had no cases to-date of Covid. I certainly don't want to be the one to take it in.  

"I can visit my mother but only once every few weeks and with no physical contact while wearing a mask and gloves. I doubt she knows who I am anymore. The emotional connection with my mother has now been broken during the very time that I should be able to comfort her, even if it is only to hear my voice.

"Many people will never get over losing their loved ones in such a cruel way. I don't blame the care homes, they're doing their best to accommodate relatives, residents and powers-that-be, terrified that they may make a mistake.

"There is no quality of life for many of these residents at present.  My mother wouldn't want this life if she had the choice, she would rather not be here than be separated from her family, although I believe that she would rather suffer herself than jeopardise the future of her grandchildren.

"Our elderly are already locked away and it's too late for many of them. We cannot do the same to our young."

'Her father watches his wife on a screen, all day'

@Anne Southern:

"My best friend's parents are in an almost identical situation. Both parents in their 90s, mother in a care home suffering with dementia.

"One family member (invariably her father) is allowed to see her mother once a week, from behind a screen, fully masked and gloved up, no touching at all let alone a hug, so if she's asleep, that's it.

"The mother's hair, always immaculate is long and straggly, she looks unkempt. The stress is killing her father, who watches her, on a screen, from home all day long.

"This very close and loving family are very worried she will die without any of them being able to hug her or say goodbye. They are frantically having some building works done to their home so that she can be brought home and have a full time carer for whatever time she has left. The father can then be with her constantly.

"But it's a race against time and the family are beside themselves with the worry of it."

'Imagine how scared you would be without the familiar voices of loved ones'

@Jan Goff:

"Not just care homes. I have a relative with mild dementia who has recurring cancer. Readmitted for further surgery which did not go well and left in pain, the hospital telephoned the spouse and reported that she was getting aggressive.

"Unsurprising when you think she was not allowed the comfort of family to reassure her and instead was confronted by masked staff. Imagine the fear that could have been avoided by the familiar voices of loved ones."

Have you been unable to see a loved one in a care home? Share your story in the comments section below.