Protection or prison? Life in a care home during Covid



Here in her own words is the daughter of Maggie Wright, who has been subjected to isolation in her care home, supposedly for her own protection for many months.

“My mum Maggie has been living in nursing/residential care homes for 16 years now since she was aged 60. She has three children and six young grandchildren who she adores. Maggie has Multiple Schlerosis and needs 24 hour nursing care but still retains mental capacity for most things. In the past, she has always managed to live a good life in care homes due to both the good nursing care she has received and also the fact that she has always managed to retain her independence by employing a PA who, before lockdown, used to take her out two or three times a week to do the things that she enjoyed.

Lockdown and overly tight government restrictions on visiting has had a huge impact on all of our mental wellbeing, particularly hers. In April she was very poorly with Covid in an upstairs room of the care home and we couldn’t see her at all, even through a window whilst she was isolated in her room for nearly four weeks. During that time, her mental health deteriorated to the point that she was talking us on the phone about wanting to kill herself, it was horrific. We were told by the care home at that time that we could only visit at end of life, as per government guidelines.

Things got a bit better in June and July as we were allowed to see her in the garden as often as we wanted for a 45 minutes slot. The care home then produced a ‘visiting protocol’ which banned all visits from children ‘due to government guidance’. My mum was heartbroken and said “life would not be worth living” if she couldn’t see her grandchildren, who are all aged 8-11 and old enough to adhere to rules. After requesting an individual risk assessment around children visiting, we were told a month later that the care home had changed their visitor protocol to allow children. Unfortunately, this was a bit late as the home had just shut down again due to a second Covid outbreak, with only window visits permitted.

Alongside all this, despite repeated requests for the care home to do a risk assessment to enable my mum to resume her trips out her car with her PA to preserve her independence and quality of life, we were told that “a risk assessment will be carried out when we are clearer on guidance that has not yet been developed”. The government said in its July visiting guidance that this would be available “shortly”. It’s now October and we’re still waiting.

Meanwhile, my mum is becoming more despondent and withdrawn each day and keeps asking what will be happening for Christmas. We worry what will happen during the winter when it’s too cold to visit outside and mum will probably have to choose which of her three children will visit as the ‘one constant visitor’. In her words, she doesn’t feel like it’s her home any more, she says it feels like a prison.”

Maggie is extremely fortunate to have the help and support of a loyal and caring family. Those that do not, for whatever reason are left to suffer totally alone, all in the name of keeping them “safe”.

The role of the independent advocate has never, ever been more important. Advocates speak out for those that find it hard to speak out alone and our role in society has never been more crucial.