BRITAIN'S lockdown lottery has torn families apart and caused loneliness and misery for hundreds of thousands of care home residents.
Campaigners have begged the Government to reconsider their strict rules after a heartbreaking photo showed a wife kneeling in the street to see her husband's face.
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Across the country, Brits in homes have been barred from meaningful contact for the past eight months. The rules have left them unable to hug or hold hands with loved ones.
Over the course of the pandemic, many of those stuck inside homes have shared their distress at being kept away from family.
The most vulnerable have been told they can only wave at husbands, wives or children through windows, although there are those who haven't been able to see loved ones at all.
We've told the stories of:
- Doreen Tilly, who was "full of life" when she celebrated her 100th birthday at the start of lockdown, but now tells family she "wants to die"
- 104-year-old Mary Fowler, who was recorded begging to see loved ones again after only seeing her children briefly through a window since March
- Doreen Morris, 85, who suffers with dementia and was recorded breaking down in tears after being told her daughter could not come into her care home for a hug
- Janice Middleton, separated from her son by a window before she died of dementia
- Peggy Grainger, 86, who was read letters from loved ones by carer Laura Dunn-Green as she died because her family had to keep away
Around 411,000 people live in homes in the UK, and campaigners warn of deaths through 'loneliness and lack of love', the Daily Mail reports.
Official figures suggest there have been thousands of excess dementia-related fatalities since lockdown began, the majority in care homes.
And the situation has been made worse by a 'patchwork' of different visiting rules across the country.
Earlier this month, an ex-Coronation Street actress filmed the moment her mum was arrested after wheeling her 97-year-old gran from a care home before England's second national lockdown took hold.
Meanwhile, a care home called the police after a 75-year-old woman went to get her husband following eight months apart.
Patricia Hodges had been denied visits to her 83-year-old husband Graham at Wayside House in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, since the beginning of the pandemic in March.
When she went to the home on October 28 to remove her husband from its care, chiefs called police.
And faced with the idea of never seeing husband Kenneth Meredith, 96, again his wife of 71 years moved into a care home with him.
Mr Meredith moved into the Bourn View care home in Birmingham five weeks ago because he has dementia.
As a result of the lockdown, wife Betty decided to move in too – as she was so worried she'd never again be able to visit.
Kate Lee of the Alzheimer's Society told the Mail: "By stopping care home visits you remove the one thing many live for, the love of their family and friends.
"People die of loneliness, of lack of love, of losing the things that matter most to them.
"Specific family members must be established as key workers, on an equal footing to care staff, given regular testing to ensure that they can visit properly, safely and with vital, physical contact.
"The Government has the power to give the best Christmas gift of all to people with dementia in residential care and their families – but it must do it now, before it is too late."
Diane Mayhew, co-founder of campaign group Rights for Residents, said: "Loneliness and isolation will kill people before coronavirus does.
"We have heard stories of people who just decide to stop eating and drinking.
"They can't take it anymore and are choosing to die."
This week, the Government announced a pilot virus testing scheme in four regions. Relatives of residents in 30 care homes will be tested prior to visits, care minister Helen Whately said.
When the Covid vaccine is rolled out, care home residents and staff will prioritised.
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