Families unable to say farewell to dying loved ones in care homes

The families who are unable to say a proper farewell: Care home residents are dying without the comfort of family around them because of ‘inhumane’ visiting restrictions, relatives claim

  • Campaigners urge ministers to change the law so relatives can hug loved ones
  • Six charities have teamed up to demand that homes are open fully to visitors from March 1, with Covid secure precautions such as testing and PPE in place
  • It came as relatives told of distress at not being able to say goodbye properly

Dying care home residents are unable to say a proper goodbye to their families because of ‘inhumane’ visiting restrictions, say desperate relatives.

Some relatives have to wait for a call saying their husband, wife or parent has entered their last 24 hours before they can hold their hand.

For others, by the time they get to the care home it is too late – or they have only minutes left.

Relatives are unable to see dying care home residents to say a proper goodbye because of ‘inhumane’ visiting restrictions. Pictured: Susan Ogden only had 10 minutes to say goodbye to husband Peter before he died in January – the first time she had seen him in nine months

Campaigners are pleading with ministers to change the law so relatives can hug loved ones all the time, instead of having to wait until they die.

Yesterday a coalition of six charities demanded that homes open fully to visitors by March 1, with precautions such as testing and PPE in place.

This will be three weeks after all care home residents received their first dose of the vaccine, enough time to develop some immunity.

‘Just ten minutes for me to say my last goodbye’ 

Susan and Peter Ogden in August 2016

After being married for 51 years, Susan Ogden had just ten minutes to say goodbye to her husband Peter.

Mrs Ogden, 72, was separated from Peter in March when his care home in North Shields near Newcastle upon Tyne was closed to visitors.

She finally saw him for the first time in nine months on New Year’s Day – ten minutes before he died from a chest infection. The grandmother-of-four said: ‘All that protecting didn’t manage to save Peter’s life. Although you know you didn’t let him down, you feel that you did let him down.’

Mrs Ogden said she spent about ten minutes with him before he died, adding: ‘I hope he knew I was there.’

Before the pandemic, Mrs Ogden, a retired teacher, regularly visited her husband, who had dementia.

She said: ‘Our loved ones are not caged animals who must tolerate being stared at from a distance’.

The groups, including Age UK, the National Care Forum, Rights for Residents and the Relatives & Residents Association, said that indoor visits were ‘a matter of fundamental human rights’.

It came as a grieving relatives told of their distress about not being able to say goodbye properly.

Susan Ogden, 72, could not hug her husband Peter, also 72, for nine months, then got to spend just ten minutes with him before he died on New Year’s Day.

Meanwhile, Ryan Mee, 41, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, has been told he cannot visit his mother Gillian, 68, who is dying from dementia in a care home in Aberdare, South Wales, because she has weeks to live rather than days.

‘It’s a barbaric and inhumane approach,’ he said.

Care home visits restarted in December following a major Daily Mail campaign which led to the rollout of rapid tests for visitors.

But in-person visits were paused again during lockdown and are yet to resume, despite all elderly residents having had the vaccine.

Government guidance makes clear that in-person visits must go ahead at the end of life.

Almost 120,000 care home residents have died since the beginning of the pandemic – most of whom were denied comfort from their families in their final weeks.

Diane Mayhew, from Rights for Residents, said: ‘We hear from people who have lost their mother or father and didn’t get a chance to see them. Relatives are tormented by the guilt of not being able to say goodbye properly.’

The Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘While the vaccines provide protection from serious disease, we do not yet know if they prevent someone from passing on the virus to others.

‘This means it is still important to follow the visiting guidance.

‘We will do everything possible to make close contact visits possible the moment it is safe to do so.’

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