My mother’s in a care home and isolating has made her so miserable

The problem…

“My 86-year-old mother was diagnosed with dementia and went into a nursing home last year. We’d heard very good reports about the place and mum seemed so happy there. She got on well with the other residents and joined in with all manner of activities – it was like she had a new lease of life.

“It’s a bit of a hike for us but we managed to get to see her most weeks and were very impressed by how well she seemed to be doing. Then lockdown happened and we haven’t been able to get to see her at all, which is why what is happening now has come as such a shock.

“Mum had a fall and the home arranged for the doctor to call on her. For four days, in spite of her complaining she was in a lot of pain, she was told it was just her arthritis. I was worried about her and so managed to persuade the staff to get her an X-ray. It turns out she has a broken leg and is now in plaster.

“The worst thing for her, though, is that because she’s been to the hospital, she now has to stay in isolation for two weeks. What’s more, she has to go back to the hospital to have it checked in two weeks’ time – after which she will have to go into isolation again. Why can they just not arrange to test her?

“It seems so unfair and, when I speak to her on the phone, she’s gone from enjoying life to being utterly miserable. I think, if she could walk out, she would.”

Fiona says…

“Whilst I can understand your frustration, I can also understand the cautious approach that the care home is putting in place. It’s very hard on your mother – but if she were to pick up the virus whilst in hospital and transmit it to the other residents, consider what their relatives would be saying.

“The problem with the tests available is that currently, they only give a positive result when the person is infected. The alternative test for immunity isn’t going to be worth doing unless she’s already had the virus – and, by the sound of it, the care home staff are trying to ensure that doesn’t happen. As the incubation period for Covid-19 is believed to be anything from two to 14 days from exposure, guidelines from the outset have been to isolate for 14 days.

“Your mother is very vulnerable and I’m sure many of the other residents of her care home will be too. It is very difficult for homes to balance the emotional welfare of their patients with their physical welfare sometimes. In this instance, though, they are having to put the physical welfare of all the residents first. I checked with the Department of Health and they believe that these precautions are sensible as well.

Are you able to chat via video calls?

“I know this is a very hard time for families with a loved one in a care home – perhaps you could talk to the home about using a tablet for video conferencing with your mother? If possible and manageable, you may even be able to speak and see each other via video calls several times a day. Talk to them about what things your mother enjoys doing too, and see if they can help to provide some of those things. Having a radio on with people talking could help her too – just hearing other voices around might make her feel less isolated.

“Finally, this may seem like a cruel and unfair situation, but while it is really hard, it really it isn’t a question of anyone being heartless. It sounds like you’ve found a good care facility for your mother that is doing its level best to minimise any risk of transmission to residents. Rather than be upset with them, perhaps be grateful for the high level of care they are giving.”

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to [email protected] for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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7th Jul 2020
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I had to put my mum into care, she had dementia. I could put up with her disappearing to the bus stop to go home to her mum and dad most days, but leaving gas fire and hob unlit became dangerous for us all. Her sister and two daughters ensured she had a visitor every other day. The care home was like a five star hotel. Whenever she was asked what she had done that day she would say “nothing, I dont talk to them, i sit here by myself everyday. Big fibs! We stopped announcing our visit, would sneak up to her floor. Dancing, singing, laughing! As soon as she saw us her face would drop. “Look what they make me do, look at that silly old bugger over there, I dont like him”. Total personality change. She was always so kind, never spoke ill of anyone! Hopefully your mum improves.

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