As I sit and write my blog this morning, I am looking out of my window watching the lambs playing and jumping around in the field completely oblivious to the pandemonium taking place in the rest of the country. One week ago we returned from a wonderful holiday in Western Australia to a relatively normal country. In just one week schools and universities have been closed and from tonight we will not be able to go to a theatre, cinema, restaurant, café, gym or any social gathering. Everyone has been advised to practise social distancing or isolation except for those essential workers. Scientific experts and advisers predict that on average between 0.5 and 1 % of people who contract this virus will die, many of these will be elderly with a mortality rate of 12 % in the over 80s.
Every year in the UK we have an average of 8000 deaths during the flu season which is spread out over 10 – 20 weeks. Every year the NHS has been telling the government that they are in crisis. Emergency services have been on their knees. Chronic underfunding of the NHS for many years and only now, the government wakes up to the fact that the NHS will collapse under the strain of this virus unless draconian measure are taken. Recently retired NHS workers ( many in their 60s) have been asked to return to work to prop up front line services.
The scale of economic, social and financial consequences is almost unimaginable. Many people must be fearing for their future and I worry about the mental health repercussions which will undoubtedly be enormous.
Mum’s care home closed to all ‘non essential visitors’ last Friday. I e mailed the manager asking if it would be possible to see Mum fleetingly providing I used the fire exit which is directly out side of her room and used sensible precautions. Robert and I are both symptom free and had elected to self isolate after our 17 hour plane journey. I had no reply to my e mail and phone calls were deflected so I drove over to the care home armed with a bagful of goodies – flowers and vase, chocolates/ cakes/ port/ whisky and both Mother’s and birthday cards plus a teddy bear. I had been advised to sit in the carpark and that someone would come out to see me. I arrived and waved to the lady in the office. After waiting in the car for about 5 minutes I decided to go in via the back door to the kitchen and office which was wide open. Sadly I was met by a tirade of ‘ you are not allowed in here, please leave immediately.’ I was taken aback as the lady then returned to the office leaving me to hand over all the goodies to a kitchen worker. I returned to my car and must confess I had a little cry. On returning home I rang the home and asked if I could speak to Mum on the phone. The carer kindly took the phone up to Mum’s room. Poor Mum recognised my voice but couldn’t understand why I had not visited her. I asked if she had had any of the presents but she and the carer could only find the flowers which had been put in the vase.
Now I know there will be mixed feelings here and some of you will think that we should completely isolate ourselves from elderly relatives. However, I believe that a little common sense and compassion should be used in these circumstances. I have been banned from visiting my mother but care workers who have children at school are going in to see her on a daily basis. I had agreed to take precautions, had no symptoms and would not have entered any public areas or met with any of the other residents and only stayed with her for a short time.
There are thousands of residents in care homes. Two of my close friends have parents in care homes and both like me, feel heart broken at the thought of not being with them or seeing them for a prolonged period of time. Many residents will not have the capacity to understand why they have been ‘abandoned’ with consequent mental health deterioration.
I have received an apology from the manager of the home for not replying to my e mail but she has reiterated the fact that no visitors will be allowed in for the foreseeable future. I had asked if we could try and set up Skype and she did give me the e mail details but to date there was no reply from the contact. I tried ringing Mum again yesterday but she was unable to hear or identify me.
I have also learned this week of the passing of my first cousin Lesley who lived in Australia. She and her sisters were both bridesmaids at my Mum and Dad’s wedding. I met her on two occassions- she was a lovely, jolly lady and me feel part of her family for the very short time I spent with her. My thoughts are with my Australian family at this sad time.
Take care every one and look after each other – there are very difficult times ahead.