Denying care home visits will trigger mental health crisis

Denying care home visits will trigger a mental health crisis among the elderly, MPs warn 

  • MPs related ‘nightmarish’ stories from constituents unable to see relatives 
  • Families have not been able to hug their loved ones for eight months 
  • Liberal Democrat MP Daisy Cooper said rules meant there was nothing ‘to prevent loved ones from dying not only in loneliness and isolation, but from it’ 

MPs lined up last night to warn ministers that denying care home residents the right to see their loved ones could spark a mental health crisis – and could even shorten the lives of the most vulnerable.

In an emotional Commons debate, MP after MP related ‘nightmarish’ stories from constituents who had been unable to see relatives during the pandemic.

They included families who had not been able to hug their loved ones for eight months or had been told they could only see them for half an hour every ten days.

Liberal Democrat Daisy Cooper said the current rules meant there was nothing ‘to protect loved ones from dying not only in loneliness and isolation, but from it’.

Tory Huw Merriman attacked plans for relatives to see loved ones behind ‘prison-like’ screens, and warned: ‘The ingredients of love, care and protection are vital in keeping vulnerable people alive and with a life.’


Shadow care minister Liz Kendall (right) said that one of her constituents, who has had to try to comfort her scared and terminally-ill mother over a video call, had told her: ‘It’s destroying my family’

Shadow care minister Liz Kendall said that one of her constituents, who has had to try to comfort her scared and terminally-ill mother over a video call, had told her: ‘It’s destroying my family.

‘I feel I am breaking every promise we ever made on looking after her.’

The MPs demanded an effective testing regime which allows key relatives to meet their loved ones.

The debate on family visits to care homes was held yesterday in Westminster Hall. Miss Cooper, the MP for St Albans, said many MPs had received letters from ‘worried and often terrified constituents’.

‘I for one have felt utterly heartbroken listening to some of them describe the fear and isolation that they know their loved ones are experiencing,’ she said.

Liberal Democrat Daisy Cooper said the current rules meant there was nothing ‘to protect loved ones from dying not only in loneliness and isolation, but from it’

‘It is often said that the true test of a country is how they treat their most vulnerable. And for as long as the Government holds out and doesn’t implement this plan, they are failing that test.’ Miss Cooper recounted the case of a constituent, Steph, who along with her four siblings were used to spending ‘hours on end with their mother’ in the care home. ‘Eight months on from the arrival of coronavirus, Steph still can’t touch her mum.’

Mr Merriman said people should have the ‘right to live their years in dignity and in the company of their family and friends’. He read out a letter from a constituent who said he could only see his partner for half an hour every ten days. The constituent wrote: ‘Every time we visit, she seems more and more withdrawn and most likely feels abandoned by her loved ones.’

Mr Merriman said the new guidelines, which allow visits to take place behind screens, ‘read to me as more of a prison visit than a care home visit’.

The MPs demanded an effective testing regime which allows key relatives to meet their loved ones. Stock picture 

Labour’s Alex Sobel said: ‘A combination of fear, isolation, coupled with a dearth of familiar and emotional supports is creating a mental health crisis in our social care settings.’

He read out a letter from a constituent who said he had had no contact with her 81-year-old mother ‘apart from a very short video which lasted around a minute sent when requested out of desperation’.

Fellow Labour MP Dan Carden quoted from a constituent who wrote how she was finally able to see her mother but wrote: ‘It’s heart-breaking to see her wither away to nothing. I was not allowed to hug or touch her, she kept getting up to come to see me and I had to walk away. It was gut wrenching.’

Holly Lynch, another Labour MP, said that allowing dementia patients to see relatives behind glass can cause ‘confusion and distress’ as well as lead to ‘premature death’.

Tory Joy Morrissey recounted the case of one husband who said his wife ‘starved to death’ in a care home during the first wave. The husband added: ‘Her death was due to the pandemic but she didn’t die from the virus itself… it was death due to refusal to eat; she was isolated and alone.’

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