'She says she's just waiting to die' - The lockdown impact on care home residents

Thursday, February 11th, 2021 8:28am

By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Reporter @EddieBisk

A 96-year-old Derbyshire care home resident told her daughter that she was "waiting to die" due to the mental health torment of lockdown restrictions.

This is just one example of the worrying struggles of care home residents and their relatives in Derbyshire during lockdown, revealed in a new report.

The report, carried out by Healthwatch Derbyshire, a patient watchdog, found lots of good practice from care homes trying to assist residents and parents during lockdown restrictions.

However, it also found numerous examples of the serious and long-lasting negative impacts which these restrictions, put in place to save lives, had on care home residents and relatives.

Helen Henderson-Spoors, chief executive at Healthwatch Derbyshire, said one family had been offered a window visit to see their relative who was in care, but their relative lived on the fourth-floor, making this unviable.

Restrictions on care home visits have now been in place for approaching a year, due to the heightened risk which their residents face from Covid-19.

Anonymous statements from relatives and residents who spoke to Healthwatch Derbyshire have been included in its report.

One of them refers to a 96-year-old Derbyshire care home resident who told her daughter “there is no point in living and she is just waiting to die and wishes it would hurry up”.

The 96-year-old woman’s daughter told Healthwatch: “My mum is 96 and before Covid she was happy and active with full mental capacity.

“She was extremely upset when visiting stopped recently and said that all she wanted was to see me.

“Her mental health has suffered and she is slightly confused and doesn’t understand why she can’t see me.

“She says there is no point in living and she is just waiting to die and wishes it would hurry up.

“This is very, very distressing for me, the thought that she is feeling so unhappy and deteriorating fast mentally.”

A further relative of a care home resident said: “I think the lack of visits and stimulus due to Covid has affected my relative greatly.

“To the point that they no longer know who I am and it is reported that they now cry and are upset for most of the day.”

A third relative of a care home resident told the county’s patient watchdog: “My dad is very down because he hasn’t been able to see his family.

“At times he has been confined to his room because Covid was in the home. His mental well-being is being affected.

“He has no stimulation or company. He thinks the family have just put him in there and left him.”

A relative of a Derbyshire care home resident said: “The situation at present is intolerable. There must be a way that relatives can visit their loved ones in the home.

“These people are like prisoners and they have done nothing wrong. They need the loving care and company of their loved ones, at the end of their lives.

“It is imperative that a solution is found as quickly as possible and I think the suggestion of making relatives key workers would work well. Please help.”

An additional relative of a care home resident said: “My mum’s dementia has deteriorated during the lockdown and she can’t remember why we can’t visit as we did, this is upsetting for her.”

Healthwatch wrote in its report that many relatives recognised that the negative impacts they raised were not a result of any wrongdoing from the care homes themselves, but due to the restrictions and regulation imposed.

One relative said that three staff members had moved into their relative’s care home during lockdown.

They said: “They were brilliant and made every effort to keep in touch with family members via phone, FaceTime and email. Can’t fault their dedication.”

Another relative commented: “We can WhatsApp at any time, we have completed memory boards and sent in photos and letters to keep our loved one up to date on what we are doing, which has helped with their mental health.”

A further relative said: “The nursing home has done everything within the guidelines to allow us to visit
mum on a regular basis. The staff are very caring and dedicated and we feel very reassured that she is being well looked after.”

An additional relative said: “I found the home very accommodating in view of the restrictions. They have done everything they could to help a difficult situation.”

Healthwatch Derbyshire said in its report: “It is recognised that the situation has been particularly challenging for care homes in balancing infection control with trying to maintain contact between residents and their loved ones.

“Issues such as being short-staffed due to sickness or staff self-isolating have often compounded these pressures.

“This challenge has been recognised by many respondents who understand the difficulties faced due to the restrictions.”

Ms Henderson-Spoors told a Derbyshire County Council scrutiny meeting today (Feb 10) there were “fabulous” examples of the “dedication, work, effort and sacrifice” in care homes over the past 12 months.

Scrutiny committee chairman Cllr Gary Musson said: “I think we are now coming to terms with some of the long term effects that these protection measures can actually have. We are not just looking at the virus, but also at mental health.

“It is quite sad to read how things put in place to protect people can actually be contributing to some sort of demise, some sort of reduction in their mental or even physical health.”

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