Nursing home reunions: ‘It was wonderful to be so close again’

As some visits restart, readers tell us about seeing loved ones after three months apart

‘It is very difficult for families who have a loved one that is anxious and doesn’t understand what is going on.’ Photograph: iStock

‘It is very difficult for families who have a loved one that is anxious and doesn’t understand what is going on.’ Photograph: iStock

 

‘I have never seen where she sleeps’

Anne Condon

My mum, Doris, was admitted to St Eunan’s Nursing Home just as lockdown began. She suffers from Lewy body dementia and was quite unwell at that time. I had to leave her at the front door of the home and have never seen where she sleeps. I felt I was abandoning her, but staff have been so caring and thoughtful and have successfully kept Covid-19 out.

I was only able to see Mum through the window, until this week when I got to see her in person. Although we still had to keep apart, it was wonderful to be so close again. Maybe soon I’ll be able to give her a big hug. For dementia patients it must be distressing, because Mum has no understanding why her sons cannot come to visit, and why I’m outside the window. A huge thank you to all those carers who are keeping our elderly safe.

‘Everything was extremely well organised’

Valerie Duncan

I visited a lady called Aine who is a patient in Royal Hospital Donnybrook on Wednesday at 11am by appointment. Everything was extremely well organised by the hospital, and I was delighted to see Aine. I am a volunteer visitor from the National Council for the Blind, and had visited Aine weekly for a couple of years up until mid-March.

‘Two weeks after Dad moved in, Mam died’

Breda Collins

My dad John, who is 89, moved to a nursing home on a trial basis in mid-February. His care needs are primarily physical. Thankfully, he has his full mental capacity. His wife had moved to the same nursing home the previous year. Unfortunately, two weeks after Dad moved in, Mam died. The blessing is that Dad was there to experience Mum’s demise first hand, with the rest of the family.

Unfortunately, before we could get to assess whether Dad wanted to stay in the nursing home or move home, lockdown came. So two weeks after Mam died, he was restricted from having any family visit him. His hearing doesn’t lend itself to phone calls and he is not tech savvy. In the past month, iPad calls are being arranged by the care team for family with Dad, which has been a huge help.

Dad got Covid and recovered well. The isolation was hellish, particularly where family couldn’t meet him to assure him or support him. He was the only one in the home to get it, no other staff or residents were affected, luckily for them. Between testing and contagion period, he had almost three weeks in further isolation in the home. He has been traumatised from all he has been through, on his own with support of the nursing and caring staff.

The physiotherapist has been tremendous. Staff have worked against the odds on behalf of all residents. Visits through the window or in the garden are not allowed, but we got two exceptions: one for Dad’s birthday and once besides. A family member got to visit this week for 25 minutes. Dad couldn’t really engage. I expect the trauma has been too much. Before my sister left and again that evening on a Whatsapp call he broke down. This is hellish. We need nursing homes to allow garden /outdoor visits urgently please.

‘The best place she could be was in a HSE-run facility’

Helen O’Neill

I visited my mam this week. The visit was lovely and safe.

This period has been stressful to say the least. Words can’t describe the impact it has had on us. My mam entered a private nursing home just before the pandemic struck. My dad passed away in April, and this was beyond horrendous due to the lack of contact and support we could offer her.

Covid affected staff and residents at her nursing home, and left the facility operating without the level of care you would expect or require for your loved ones. The nursing home allowed a number of visits in May, and at none of these were the guidelines on infection control followed as far as we could see. So for my mam’s safety, I made the decision to move her to a public nursing home facility where I had to abide by the restrictions on visits, but overall I felt she was in a safer place. I realised the best place she could be was in a HSE-run facility where correct procedures and staffing levels would be adhered to, and residents’ safety was paramount.

‘We have got no update from the nursing home’

Carol Trunk

Unfortunately it is still not possible to visit my mum, who has Alzheimer’s. I have not seen her since the start of March, and have got no update on possible dates or plans to accommodate visits from the nursing home. She can’t speak, so video calls don’t work.

It is very difficult for my father (80) who had previously seen his wife every day in the 50 years they are married. Her son died during this time (not Covid related) and we still can’t visit her to share our grief. It is very sad.

‘My mother needs her hand held, and close contact’

Aoife Kavanagh

My mother has dementia. Since lockdown I have been able to see her through her bedroom window, but unfortunately since the last bank holiday weekend in June, no family members have been allowed do that. I understand why, and agree with the nursing home. I totally support them.

I feel like I am losing my mother, which makes it all the more difficult when we can’t touch, need to keep a distance and wear a mask. I totally support this also, but it’s hard. With my mother’s stage of dementia she needs her hand held, and close contact. It is difficult for her to understand what I am saying and relate with me on any sort of level without touch.

My mother is very much loved and cared for by every staff member in the nursing home, and they have done a wonderful job by keeping all residents safe from Covid and being like family to residents now, more so than ever. I am hugely grateful.

I honestly don’t see the visiting rules being changed for a very long time. The more you think about it, the more you feel sad and the panic rises. It is very difficult for families who have a loved one that is anxious and doesn’t understand what is going on. My mother seems to be content so we are extremely lucky.

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