Woman, 104, says care home restrictions make her feel like she's in 'prison'

An 104-year-old care home resident has pleaded for visiting rules to be relaxed so she can spend more time with her family.

In a video message, Mary Fowler said coronavirus restrictions preventing her from seeing family have made her care home feel ‘like a prison’.

She said: ‘We’re shut down, we can’t see our family and I think when you’re my age, you deserve to see your family. It’s all you want, is the happy faces roundabout you.’

The pensioner urged people to get involved with campaigns to allow relatives more access, saying that many care home residents must be in the same position.

She added: ‘Please try and help and do all you can. There must be loads of others like me, wanting to see their bairns at the end of their life,’ she said.

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‘I’ve got good carers and staff is really good here, the food is good – everything, but this is what you want, your bairns roundabout you when you’re old.’

Cathie Russell, organiser of the Care Homes Relatives Scotland campaign group, shared the video online and described Fowler, who is in the Balfarg Care Home in Glenrothes, Fife, as a ‘wonderful spokesperson for Scottish care residents’.

Under current Scottish Government guidelines, a maximum of three visitors from two households are allowed to meet residents for around 30 minutes outdoors.

Care homes must meet certain conditions – including weekly coronavirus testing of staff and a risk assessment approved by the local director of public health – before indoor visits are allowed.

Despite this, Ms Russell said many homes are not allowing visits. She thinks family members should be treated as essential carers, so they can have tests and personal protective equipment (PPE) and be allowed more frequent, closer contact.

She said: ‘There’s got to be something better than what we’re doing.

‘Obviously you’ve got to be safe and Covid is rising again, but it’s not spreading among people using PPE – it’s among people not taking precaution.

‘You don’t know how long we’re going to be in this situation. Last week in Scotland another 200 people died in care homes – not from Covid, but they are dying having gone six to seven months without having any decent contact with their family. It’s causing a huge amount of anxiety and it is heart-breaking.’

The campaign group met Health Secretary Jeane Freeman last week after staging a protest outside the Scottish Parliament calling for more care home access, and said they are hopeful that the rules will be changed.

A spokesperson for HC-One, which operates the Balfarg care home, said: ‘We know it is vitally important for families to be connected as much as possible.

‘We are absolutely committed to facilitating safe visits for families and are continually working to enable this whilst adapting to the ever-changing local circumstances and rules regarding the virus.

‘Our goal is to reunite residents with their loved ones in a way that keeps everyone safe from the virus.’

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