One year of reduced social contact has affected many people's lives. But some people needed to adapt their lives more than others. Pearl is 87 and living with dementia. As we mark Coronavirus Action Day, Pearl's daughter, Enomwoyi, shares how the past year has greatly impacted their family.
Enomwoyi lives with her mother, Pearl, who has Alzheimer's disease. Also in the family home is Enomwoyi's husband, children, and two grandchildren.
Before coronavirus first reached the UK, carers would come three times a day to help with Pearl’s care.
These visits stopped suddenly when lockdown measures were announced last March. This left Enomwoyi and the rest of the family to carry out all of Pearl’s daily care.
Enomwoyi said, 'I was so worried about Mom at the beginning of all this. She’s 87 and has Alzheimer's along with some other underlying health conditions.
'We had several phone calls from different agencies saying they would not be able to come to the house, and then we were left to get on with it.'
On top of this, Enomwoyi came down with coronavirus-like symptoms.
This meant that Enomwoyi had to isolate from Pearl for two weeks. This was difficult for the whole family because they suddenly had to take on more intense caring responsibilities with very little preparation.
'I don’t know how it would have worked without my supportive family.'
When Enomwoyi began to feel better, she was keen to care for Pearl herself as much as possible. But because of coronavirus, Enomwoyi's return to work was remotely from home. This meant Enomwoyi had to combine work with the increased caring responsibilities for Pearl while there were no home care visits.
In the mornings, Enomwoyi's work meetings would often clash with getting Pearl up and ready for the day.
‘There have been occasions when Mom has been emotional and very tearful and, as her primary carer, I have had to be on hand to support her.’
Despite her employers being incredibly considerate, this had an understandably stressful impact on her.
More recently, Enomwoyi has returned to working in an office, so family members have continued to support Pearl with her care needs during the day with reduced professional support.
Noticing changes in Pearl
Pearl has only left the house four times since the start of the pandemic last March, all for hospital appointments.
Enomwoyi has noticed her mother's Alzheimer's disease symptoms worsen in recent months.
'I think in the most part it’s down to the natural progression of Alzheimer’s that is to be expected with the disease, but the isolation of lockdown could very easily have also had an impact. I’m convinced, that although we do the best we can to motivate and engage with Mom at home, she has missed out on the positive interactions that came to halt with the pandemic.
'No bi-weekly trips to the local coffee shop for afternoon tea. No bi-weekly sessions at the day centre where she could interact with familiar people outside our family. No visits to healthcare professionals which brought an additional element of conversation and interaction into Mom’s life.’
'She no longer seems as interested in things she used to love, things like getting her nails done, which is sad to see.'
Luckily, Pearl’s carer has now been able to return to their home. They come into the house twice daily to help with Pearl’s care needs. This has taken a huge pressure off Enomwoyi and her family.
‘Each day I worry if our carer might be unable to continue to care for Mom leaving us in an unimaginably stressful situation in terms of trying to find an alternative, equally agreeable and sensitive carer,’ she says.
The family feels very blessed to have the support from home care. But they know there are many others that might not have their support back.
Better plans are needed
Enomwoyi reflects on disruptions to essential healthcare for Pearl.
‘There still doesn’t seem to be a clear plan about how and when these services will return.
'Without the pandemic, Mom would have had several visits to several professionals - our GP, dietician, foot specialist, occupational therapist, and, physiotherapist.
'With the restrictions, consultations and reviews have been virtual, and sometimes very difficult to arrange. In addition, the lack of liaison between different professionals has been unhelpful and frustrating, leading to delays in her prescriptions.
'For example, one hospital appointment was cancelled because of Covid, without them informing us, so the effort of getting Mom ready and attending on time, was frustrating beyond belief.'
'I would love to see dementia care being talked about more by the Government.'
Enough is enough
Urgent action is needed to ensure that never again will people like Enomwoyi face such hardship and loss.
Show your support today and stand with us to see those worst hit by the pandemic prioritised in recovery and care.
Stand with Enomwoyi
Stand with us to see those worst hit by the pandemic prioritised in recovery and care, now and indefinitely.
Enomwoyi's story was initially published in June 2020 and was amended in February 2021.