The family of a great-grandad with dementia have shared heartbreaking images of him one year apart to show the toll the Covid-19 lockdown is having on care home residents.
John Ross, 89, who lives in a south Liverpool care home, has only seen his wife Marlene once for 20 minutes over the past 12 months and says he has no reason to live.
The retired engineer’s family say a year of separation from his loved ones has caused him to severely deteriorate, looking gaunt and unkempt.
Pictures from Valentine’s Day last year show John looking healthy and smiling, with his arm around his wife of 63 years after giving her a bouquet of roses.
But his family say that smile has since gone and the father-of-five told his daughter on a rare visit: ‘I’ve got nothing left to live for. I want to die.’
Daughter Penny Ogden, 59, said she can count on one hand the number of visits she’s paid her dad in the last year.
‘In the last year he has deteriorated so much in his appearance. He just looks absolutely awful,’ she added.
‘He’s lost so much weight, he’s not eating or drinking. He has changed so much.
‘The photos prior to lockdown and now show his deterioration – it is unbelievable. He needs a haircut, he needs a shave. He misses all of that.’
John was born in India and met Marlene there, before the two moved back to the UK to get married and settle in Liverpool.
In later years he was moved to a care home after being diagnosed with vascular dementia.
Penny said the lack of family contact has been devastating for him and means he no longer remembers many family members, despite having 21 grandchildren and nine great-grandkids.
Although Penny understands the need to protect care home residents from the virus, she said it has gone too far the other way and has cost her dad’s quality of life.
She said: ‘It was his birthday in September and my mum, who’s also in her eighties, got to visit him.
‘It was an outdoor visit for 20 minutes. She wasn’t allowed to hold him, to touch him or give him a hug. And all he did was cry.
‘My mum came away absolutely distraught. She just feels so guilty because she says she’s put him into this care home.’
The family say John is receiving good care and staff are doing their best in a difficult situation but something needs to change.
She added: ‘He’s had his vaccination, my mum’s had it. We still can’t go in and see him.
‘Even if one member of the family was able to get in – I know it’s not going to go back to the way it was – but they’ve got to do something. It is absolutely desperate.’
John is one of thousands of vulnerable care home residents who have gone almost a year without proper visits from loved ones – talking to them through a window or on video calls, which can be confusing particularly for dementia patients.
Numerous campaigning groups and charities have now called for care home residents to be allowed to choose a relative as an essential care giver so they can spend more time with loved ones.
Rights for Residents, along with Age UK, John’s Campaign, National Care Forum, Relatives & Residents Association and the Nursing Homes Association, said being designated as a care giver will give relatives the same status as care home staff.
This means the designated carer will be entitled to have the vaccine and make in-person visits indoors and without glass screens.
Rights for Residents is calling on Parliament to pass emergency legislation that enshrines the rights of ‘essential family carers’ in law.
It said: ‘We demand that the government, local authorities and care providers find a more humane solution that balances the risk of contracting Covid-19 against the devastating mental and physical deterioration we are witnessing as people remain locked away.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘We know visit to care homes are crucial in supporting the health and wellbeing of residents, which is why we have updated guidance on visits during lockdown.
‘We are acutely aware of the importance of visits for everyone involved and visits can continue to take place with arrangements such as outdoor visiting, substantial screens, or visiting pods.
‘While the vaccines provide protection from serious disease, we do not yet know if they prevent someone from passing on the virus to others. This means it is still important to follow the visiting guidance.
‘We will do everything possible to enable close contact visits the moment it is safe to do so and will provide an update in due course.’
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