Coronavirus: New hope for reunions at care homes after Daily Express campaign

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Care minister Helen Whately yesterday confirmed plans to let loved ones in by nominating them as key workers. It will end a seven-month scandal that prevented hundreds of thousands from touching, holding and kissing their vulnerable relatives. Ms Whately acted a day after we exposed the true scale of the care home access crisis and said the “key workers” pilot scheme would launch shortly.

TV personality Dame Esther Rantzen, 80, who backed our calls for action, said: “I am deeply relieved on behalf of so many heartbroken families.

“Congratulations to the Daily Express for enabling these voices to be heard and giving them hope.”

Ms Whately said: “Visiting is incredibly important for residents and their families in care homes. I really want us to enable visiting but it must be safe.”

Daily Express was inundated with heartbreaking stories of loved ones effectively imprisoned without meaningful contact since lockdown.

Jane Hanley, 71, from Peterborough, whose ex-hustime band David, 81, has vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s, said: “His life has gone from seeing one of his family or friends on a daily basis to absolutely nothing. It’s inhumane and senseless.”

Jayne Connery of Care Campaign for the Vulnerable, said: “Well done to the Daily Express for leading this crucially important campaign and allowing our vulnerable elderly in care homes a voice.”

Kate Lee, CEO of Alzheimer’s Society, said: “This is a huge step forward for every single family affected by dementia, including all those who tirelessly campaigned for recognition and we thank the Daily Express for their support.”

But she warned: “However, the second [Covid] wave is already upon us and there is no to wait. ‘Soon’ must turn into ‘when’ and ‘how’ so people with dementia can safely reunite with the ones they love.

“There must be no further tragic losses.”

The news comes as Office for National Statistics figures showed a total of 321 coronavirus-related deaths were registered in the week ending October 2.

This is the highest figure since the week ending July 10 and an increase from 215 deaths in the week to September 25.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it would be setting out further details of Ms Whately’s pilot scheme plan “in due course”.

The anguish of missing mum

Alison Wright’s trauma at not being able to see her mother since March will be a story familiar to millions.

Former secretary Monica, 86, put herself into a home after struggling with mobility, but had been happy there since July last year. But things changed after lockdown in March.

Overnight her only daughter, mother-of-two Alison, was banned from visiting the home near Bradford, West Yorks, and continues to be denied access. The situation has been unbearable and Alison has suffered breakdowns.

She said: “A week before the first lockdown in March the home closed its doors with no notice. It was a shock to be told I couldn’t visit but we thought it would only be a few weeks.

“By April they had Covid in the home, mum was very ill for three weeks and all I could do was see her through a window.

“To my knowledge 14 residents died of Covid but mum slowly recovered.

“By June/July I was allowed a socially distanced garden visit, but mum hated these as she was often cold. In August socially distanced indoor visits were allowed in the reception area.

“But the emotional toll was affecting me quite badly. I have been a wreck because in mid-August the Bradford area was again in lockdown. We are back to once-a-week Skype calls.

“It cannot carry on. There is no point in elderly people being alive because the deprivation of their visiting rights is killing them anyway and the impact on families after eight months is too much to bear.”

Comment by Jayne Connery

We have received heartbreaking correspondence from families begging to be let in to care homes to hug elderly loved ones.

This has been a harrowing experience for me professionally and on a personal level too.

I lost my own mother to a dementia-related illness just before the start of the Covid pandemic and on hearing the distressing accounts from family members being denied access into care homes it made me feel relieved I lost my mother when I did. The thought of not being able to hold her hand or kiss her cheek would have left me utterly bereft.

Care Campaign for the Vulnerable supports daughters, sons and grandchildren who contacted us saying they would give anything to have close contact with elderly lovedones again. So there is no doubt we can hear the sighs of absolute relief after Helen Whately announced a family member will now be treated as a key worker and will soon be allowed into care homes on a pilot scheme.

It is a victory for all campaigners that want to see injustices put right.

One daughter contacted us and excitedly spoke on behalf of the many families that came to us.

Through sobs of tears, she said: “I can finally get to hug my mother after six long months.

“I can’t believe it. At last.”

Jayne Connery is the founder of the Care Campaign for the Vulnerable

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