Kate Holt at home in Kentmere, Cumbria, with her mother Shirley who she removed from a care home after becoming concerned for her health. May 14, 2020. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian
Having been confined to their rooms and forbidden visits from loved ones, care home residents seem to be giving up on life and "fading away", say staff and families.
Most care homes have been locked down since March, with residents isolated in their bedrooms behind closed doors. Many are denied visits from their families, even to see them through their windows.
"The virus wonít be the killer of these people, itís the distress and fear of not seeing family that is doing it," said one carer who asked to remain anonymous but has reported her concerns to the Care Inspectorate in Scotland.
Residents at most care homes are no longer mixing with each other and have halted, or drastically reduced, all activities, exercise and therapies. The homes have tried to keep residents in contact with their loved ones through the telephone or online. However, 80% of care home residents have dementia, preventing many from using technology.
"Residents who were giggling, happy and active before the crisis now just lie in their beds or sit alone in their rooms with their doors closed," added the carer. "Many now barely respond when you speak to them.
"Some shout for their friends and family. Others have given up entirely and are fading away."
Martin Green, CEO of Care England, said there were no easy choices for care homes during the pandemic.
"It is very upsetting but the reality is that itís a stark choice between not seeing your loved one for a while or not seeing them at all, because theyíve died," he said.
More than 22,000 care home residents in England and Wales may have died as a direct or indirect result of Covid-19. Green said: "Homes are having to quarantine their residents to prevent that death rate growing even higher. Itís necessary because explaining to someone with dementia why they have to maintain social distancing from other residents is impossible.
"Care homes have received no guidance other than that which has been given to the general public about how to care for residents. Theyíre doing their absolute best and I have spoken with many families who understand that and deeply appreciate their efforts."
Care homes have been running with 10% to 20% staff absence rates. A second carer said because of staff sickness in her home, she has to get residents out of bed in the mornings, washed and fed in10 to 12 minutes.
"After breakfast, I only have time to deliver residents their meals and medicine in their rooms and leave. Some residents beg me to sit with them but I donít have time. It breaks my heart."
Kate Holt removed Shirley, her 84-year-old mother, who has Alzheimerís, from her care home in Cumbria. The same week, 11 people died in the home from Covid-19. Six more have since died.
"I was so shocked by mumís condition," said Holt, a photojournalist who has worked for the Guardian. "Mum had been isolated in her room for three weeks. She could barely walk, she was not engaging with me, had pressure sores and a urinary tract infection.
"Itís taken a month but sheís now walking, chatting and feeding herself again."
Sue has been trying to get her mother out of her care home since the lockdown started in March. "We try to Skype with her daily but she doesnít understand it. She barely recognises me any more."
"I feel that she is going to die and sheíll go to her grave not seeing her family or feeling our love.
"I understand that the care homes are keeping the vulnerable safe but whatís better: quality or quantity of life?"
Nadra Ahmed, the chair of the National Care Association, said: "Care homes are making every effort to create a new reality but that reality canít be like the old, ‘open doorsí one. Their primary responsibility is to keep residents safe from the virus and if there are shortcomings in their efforts, itís not by design."
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "We understand that limiting visits to care homes is difficult for many families and residents who want to see their loved ones and every decision we take has public safety at its heart."
SOURCE: PRESS TV