John’s wife, Lesley, is living with dementia in a care home. Because of coronavirus, John has not been able to visit Lesley every day as he would usually do. John explains why he’s signed our urgent letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care asking him to set out a clear timetable and process for re-introducing meaningful visits to care homes.
My wife, Lesley, and I have been married for 45 years. When she was diagnosed with dementia, I looked after her at home for as long as I could. When she moved into a care home, over six years ago, I still visited her every day to chat, have meals with her and give her additional care.
But when coronavirus hit, Lesley’s care home went into lockdown and I didn’t see her at all for more than eight weeks. Going from seeing and caring for Lesley every day, to complete radio silence has been so difficult.
After some time, I used WhatsApp video calls to see and speak to her as often as I could. But due to her dementia, I wasn’t sure if she could understand it was me on the phone. Calls just don’t compare to seeing her in person. It really isn’t a solution for people with advanced dementia like Lesley.
'I know it’s for the best, but the hardest thing to cope with is that you don’t know how long it will go on for.'
After eight weeks, I was able to see her for socially distanced visits in the garden, which I was hopeful about. But these were really hard for both of us, and now we’re back in lockdown. When it is permissible I can now see her on the other side of a floor-to-ceiling screen.
Wait until May? No way
It now finally feels like the end’s in sight, but I’m concerned that the Government hasn’t clearly addressed rumours that care home visits will not take place until May due to the vaccination timetable.
When someone has severe dementia, eleven months is such a long time. As many families will understand, visits and time with a loved one with dementia becomes more and more important.
I understand they need to keep people safe, and I am happy to be tested and wear PPE to keep everybody protected. If I did that, I would be no more risk than the carers in the home.
It’s having a huge impact on both me, Lesley, and the wider family. I would do anything to be able to see her properly again.
Almost a year into the pandemic, I don’t want more time wasted.
I think the Government should prioritise a timetable for care home visits and provide transparency on how vaccinations impact these visits, in their upcoming plans for relieving national lockdown restrictions.
Coronavirus has caused too much devastation for people affected by dementia. Now, families like mine must be better connected and involved in the care of our loved ones.
Stand with John
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John's story was initially published in August 2020 and was amended in February 2021.