Family heartbreak as home bans all visits
Christmas day exchange of gifts meeting cancelled
A family has been left heartbroken by a company’s decision to cancel all visits to its care homes for the foreseeable future and the only opportunity they had to see a close family member this Christmas.
Up until this week Rachel Taylor had been hoping her mum Susan would be able to visit younger daughter and Rachel’s sister Shelley at The Grange Care Home near Balbeggie on Christmas Day so she could hand over some gifts and raise a few smiles.
Rachel’s mum had believed she would be able to enter the home to spend a little time with Shelley under a nationwide easing of restrictions on indoor visits announced earlier this year that Balhousie Care Group said it was willing to go along with in mid-December.
It would have only been the second time Susan had been allowed near her daughter, who has Angelman Syndrome, in over nine months as the company has kept strict rules forbidding families from entering its facilities ever since the first coronavirus lockdown in March.
However, she was devastated to learn earlier this week her planned visit had been scrapped by managers fearful of a new mutant strain of COVID-19 getting into the home and infecting residents.
The company said in a statement put out after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the latest coronavirus lockdown last Saturday: “Balhousie Care Group has taken the difficult decision to suspend all visits to its care homes until further notice, following the news of a new strain of coronavirus in the UK and the consequent tightening of restrictions.
“While we understand how deeply upsetting this is for relatives and residents, especially so close to Christmas, it is crucial we act early.
“The new strain of COVID is reported to be significantly more infectious. That means we must do our utmost to protect residents and staff over these coming weeks and months and continue to keep our care homes as safe as possible.”
Rachel told the Perthshire Advertiser she understands Balhousie Care Group wanting to do all it can to protect its residents from a virus that has claimed over 68,000 lives this year in the UK alone.
But she also believes the company is now focusing too narrowly on keeping one particular threat to people’s health at bay.
Rachel, who has not been allowed to go near her sister at all in the last nine months, said: “I accept they are trying to do their best to keep care homes COVID free [but] I think they are now focusing so myopically on preventing one virus from spreading they are failing to consider the mental well-being of their residents and the impact mental health has on physical health.
“They can’t just keep slamming the doors shut in a panic every time the government makes a new announcement. It’s damaging for both the residents and their families.”
Rachel said the only time her mum had been allowed into the home to see Shelley since March was far from satisfactory either as they were both left distraught when they had to separate again and the hurt their parting caused will likely stay with them both for a long time.
She explained: “Routine is a very big thing for Shelley and prior to lockdown either my mum or myself would go and visit her every weekend and we would spend hours with her. That just stopped overnight with the first lockdown and whenever my mum phoned to check on her she was told Shelley was always sitting by the door every weekend waiting for us to arrive.
“It was heartbreaking to hear that but as time has gone on she has begun to settle so my mum was torn about visiting Shelley when she was finally allowed in again last Sunday because she desperately wanted to see her but at the same time she knew Shelley would start to expect her visits every week again.
“She did go ahead with the visit but Shelley didn’t want her to leave when her time was up and my mum didn’t want to leave either because she doesn’t know when she’s next going to get to see her daughter again.
“Unfortunately for us outdoor visits wouldn’t work because Shelley is so focused on routine she wouldn’t understand that we couldn’t take her back to her room and staff might end up having to drag her back to her room. And window visits are absolutely out of the question because she would just want to come outside to be with us.”
A spokesperson for the Balhousie Care Group commented: “Due to the growing concerns regarding the newly identified COVID variant virus and the subsequent tightening of restrictions across the country, Balhousie Care Group reluctantly took the extremely difficult but unavoidable decision to temporarily close all our homes to indoor and outdoor visits, with the exception of end of life visits. This is to protect all of our residents.
“We understand and deeply feel how heartbreaking this is for our residents and their loved ones, especially at Christmas, but we know very little about this new variant of COVID and our first priority is to protect the safety and wellbeing of our vulnerable people as much as we can.
“For that reason, it has been crucial that we act fast to try to prevent the spread.
“We are currently offering window visits and installing intercom systems across all 26 of our homes to enable family and friends to see and talk with their loved ones in a safe way.
“We know this isn’t the same as being close and having physical contact, but it is the safest option for all our residents.”