The son of a frail 89-year-old with dementia has told how he had to speak to his mother through wire mesh during a visit to her care home.
Brian Halliday, 58, says he was separated from great-grandmother Agnes by a fence during the visit because of Covid-19 restrictions.
Mr Halliday, from East Lothian near Edinburgh, claims her condition has deteriorated after she went into the home a week before the first lockdown.
He says he has only been allowed one indoor visit in the nine months since, which lasted for 30 minutes and ended with his mother in tears.
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In March, the pensioner was moved from East Lothian Community Hospital to Eskgreen Care Home in nearby Musselburgh.
Since then Mr Halliday claims the home has been obstructive when he has tried to visit Agnes, who was the centre of her family after working as a cleaner and home help to bring up her children in tough times.
Mr Halliday told Metro.co.uk: ‘Every time I went to see her she was begging me to help her commit suicide.
‘I tried to keep her hopes up by telling her just to hang on a bit longer. At first we had window visits but then they made it really difficult to see my mother.
‘I’ve only had one thirty-minute indoor visit in nine months and it felt like five minutes, you could see the tears and terror in her face as they were taking her away. She was asking them if she could give me a cuddle but they took her away and threw me out of the building.
‘I can’t get her face out of my mind and I’ve been unable to sleep and living in fear that they’ll stop me seeing my mother.
‘Now I am just fighting to get some time with her before she dies.’
Mr Halliday, who is his mum’s main carer, says other than the one occasion in October he has only been allowed window and fence visits at the home, where her place is funded through the council.
‘When my mother first went into the home her biggest fear was that we were going to leave her in there,’ he said.
‘I had to promise her that we would never leave her.
‘Five days later the first lockdown came and though I’ve been allowed window visits since then I’ve only had one indoor visit.
‘When my mum moved in she was relatively fit and healthy, she looked ten years younger than her age, now she looks ten years older.
‘She has lost a huge amount of weight and she broke her hips twice.
‘I saw her in her hospital because I am her carer and the person closest to her, and there needed to be someone to sit with her while we waited for the results of her X-rays and examinations.
‘For the four hours we waited she couldn’t hold a conversation.’
Mr Halliday, who works in marketing, took the picture through the fence in the summer and released it through the Care Campaign for the Vulnerable (CCFTV) because he feels he has exhausted his efforts to visit Agnes.
Though his mother goes outdoors to smoke, he claims he was not given the chance to see her in the home’s garden.
Mr Halliday said: ‘At the time you were meant to get garden visits but the visit through the fence was all I was offered, they made it out to be a favour and the implication was if I didn’t go along with it they could stop me seeing my mother altogether.
‘They said they were following guidelines. I took the picture because I was angry and depressed about the situation.
‘My mum comes from a working class background and worked hard when things were a lot tougher than they are now to bring up her children.
‘Family means everything to her and for her to be stuck in this situation is just devastating.’
Measures by care homes on both sides of the border to prevent the risk of Covid-19 infection have triggered an outcry, with families saying they are being unfairly prevented from vital personal contact with loved ones.
CCFTV Founder Jayne Connery said: ‘We are utterly appalled with the treatment our governments have shown our elderly residents in care homes.
‘Evidently no one is listening to campaigners or families highlighting the desperate need to be with vulnerable loved ones in care homes.
‘Meanwhile, residents like Agnes are wasting away from lack of family contact. The plight of our elderly in care homes is tucked away out of sight and very much out of their mind.’
An East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership (ELHSCP) spokesperson said: ‘We know how difficult the Covid restrictions are for relatives, but most are very supportive because they know the restrictions are vital in keeping residents and staff safe and well.
‘All our ELHSCP care homes do everything they can under the Covid guidance to ensure that relatives and residents are able to meet in person, by phone and online, and also keep up to date with life in the homes on social media. Our care home staff regularly update nominated family members on how their relatives are doing.
‘All of our care homes offer meetings in pleasant surroundings, indoors and outdoors, and work with families to ensure that they are able to meet regularly, as long as they can conform to Covid guidance.
‘We can’t comment on individual cases, but would like to assure people that we always do everything in our power to keep families in touch, whilst also making sure that our residents stay safe and healthy.’
Mr Halliday has complained to the Care Inspectorate, which is the watchdog for homes in Scotland.
A spokesperson said: ‘A concern has been raised with us about this care service and we are considering the information given to us carefully.
‘If we uphold a complaint we will publish the outcome on our website.’
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