Your first reunion at the care home with a person with dementia may well be emotional. The person’s condition might have got worse during the pandemic, and they may struggle to remember you. Annamaria shares how she felt ahead of reuniting with her mother, Liliana, who lives in a care home.
Not having meaningful visits with loved ones with dementia in care homes has been an ongoing and distressing feature of the pandemic.
You may have felt powerless and guilty. Also many residents did not know why their visits weren’t happening and became distressed.
We’ve heard many stories of how people with dementia in care homes have deteriorated over time. In many cases this has had a knock-on effect on their relationships with the people closest to them.
After all this, preparing to see the person again is made even harder by the weight of expectation, fear about what might have changed, and the practicalities.
My mam, Liliana, has vascular dementia and lives in a residential care home. Her carers have been a surrogate family to her in our absence due to coronavirus restrictions. The home is a ten-minute drive from home and easily accessible for my dad.
Dad has been allowed to visit her once a week on compassionate grounds for some time. He had reported that Mam is quieter now and mostly whispers. She would sometimes respond with smiles when he holds her hand or mentions the names of the family.
On recent times, Dad has come away very upset by seeing Mam agitated and suddenly making repetitive distressing sounds.
Sometimes the word 'home' is clear and she has clearly said 'Don't like you anymore' and 'Want to come with you'.
According to Dad, this generally happens towards the end of his visit. On a recent video call with my brother (facilitated by staff), she constantly made sounds but very clearly said 'home'.
Needless to say, this is very distressing to see and hear about. Not a day passes when I don't feel guilty and sad that she can't be at home with my dad anymore. We maintained her at home as long as was possible for her wellbeing.
How I felt before visiting Mam
On the days running up to my first visit at the care home since the pandemic started, my overall feeling was relief that I would be able to see my mam face-to-face after such a long time.
I was excited about the forthcoming visit. However, for the first time ever, I felt really apprehensive about seeing her.
I feared seeing a deterioration in her condition but mostly I was worried whether she would recognise me and if she did would her eyes tell me what I've been feeling so guilty of - that she feels abandoned by her family.
My advice to others ahead of a care home reunion
I would advise anyone in the same situation to just keep telling their loved one how much they are loved. I have been struggling to accept that I'm doing everything I can for my mam and have been living under a cloud of guilt.
My recent visit helped me to accept that she is receiving the best care possible and that we can do no more until restrictions are lifted.
The hope that she will once again have a constant flow of visitors is what I have to focus on now and I need to rid myself of the guilt which is slowly destroying me. This is my advice to anyone else who feels as I do.
Preparing to visit a person with dementia in a care home
Visits to care homes were restricted or not possible at the start of the pandemic. Now care homes are opening up again for indoor visits. Our advice here should help you prepare for visiting.