Care home resident, 104, urges end of ‘prison-like’ visiting restrictions

Mary Fowler
Mary Fowler
17:18pm, Thu 24 Sep 2020
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An 104-year-old care home resident has made a plea for visiting rules to be eased so she can spend more time with her family.

In a video message, Mary Fowler said the coronavirus restrictions mean her care home has been “like a prison”.

She urged people to get involved with campaigns to allow relatives more access, and she said many care home residents must be in the same position of wanting to see their children “at the end of their life”.

She said: “I just want to say, it’s just been like a prison in here.

“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.

“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.

“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 message online and said the 104-year-old, who is in the Balfarg Care Home in Glenrothes, Fife, is a “wonderful spokesperson for Scottish care residents”.

Current Scottish Government guidelines allow up to three visitors from two households to meet residents for around 30 minutes outdoors.

Indoor visits are allowed in restricted circumstances, where the care home meets certain conditions including weekly coronavirus testing of staff and a risk assessment approved by the local director of public health.

Mrs Russell said despite this, many homes are not allowing visits, and she wants family members to 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 precautions.

“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.”

After around 50 campaigners staged a protest outside the Scottish Parliament calling for more care home access, the group met Health Secretary Jeane Freeman last week and said they are hopeful of some changes to the rules.

A spokeswoman for HC-One, which operates the Balfarg care home, said it is open for safe visits between families.

She 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.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the Government is working to improve the situation.

She said: “The Cabinet Secretary has met with families who have raised this issue and is acutely aware of the importance of visits for the health and wellbeing of both residents and their friends and family and will meet them again shortly.

“The Scottish Government is looking constantly at what else we can do to safely allow more visiting, while protecting residents as far as we can from the introduction of the virus into their homes.”

She said the nationwide household visit restrictions do not apply to care homes, meaning indoor and outdoor visits can continue, except in areas under additional restrictions and where indoor visits have been suspended.

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