On 5 November a woman was arrested after taking her 97-year-old mother out of a care home to look after her during the second lockdown. She was de-arrested shortly after, but her mother, who suffers from dementia, was returned to the home. The daughter said her motive was the thought of not being able to see her mother again.

During the first lockdown this year, the reputation of care homes for keeping their residents safe went drastically downhill. The Government’s decision to move untested Covid-19 patients from hospitals to care homes resulted in the virus ripping through residential populations. Once the virus got into the homes, it was inevitable that thousands of elderly and vulnerable people would die. 

Loved ones could only wait with baited breath and hope that their relatives would come out of lockdown unscathed. Despite all the preventative measures put in place by government guidelines and care homes, this was not the case for so many.

Many people passed away without their loved ones by their sides. Residents with life-limiting illnesses, like dementia, were denied access to the people who could help to keep their lives enriched. People were living a helpless existence in terror that they may not see those who are the most important to them ever again.

Some care homes have come up with a variety of ingenious ideas to get around the ban on households mixing indoors in this second lockdown. A care home in Featherstone, West Yorkshire is one of the homes across the country that have installed a visiting booth. The booth was created by using Perspex to separate the inside of the home from a small porch where visitors can sit with the doors open and talk to their loved ones whilst still being separated by a partition. However, this is less than practical as the days get colder and shorter and is no substitute for prolonged and physical contact.

It would make sense during this second lockdown to allow family members to remove residents from homes and take care of them themselves. Of course, every case is different and for some people it may not be a suitable idea. However, if someone’s family is prepared and willing to look after their vulnerable relatives, then provisions should be made by individual care homes to allow them to do so. It is unfair to ask people to trust that their relatives will be kept safe and well given the disastrous outcome of the last lockdown.

It also allows residents of care homes to maintain their dignity. Each person in a care home is someone’s family member or friend and it is unfair to essentially lock them away without any say in the matter. When the University of Manchester appeared to lock students in their accommodation by erecting large fences there was uproar. In care homes the same principles should apply. 

No, it wouldn’t be easy to arrange but people deserve to feel safe and to know that their loved ones are safe. It is disgraceful that people who do not trust the Government to ensure the protection of the elderly and vulnerable are made to feel like criminals for simply trying to do what they think is right. If the Government is serious about protecting the health of the nation this winter, they should have considered the devastating long term physical and mental health issues that will be caused by separating vulnerable people from their nearest and dearest again, and given care home residents a choice in where they spend this lockdown period.

Image: Tania Van den Berghen from Pixabay

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