Monday was a momentous day for families with loved ones in care homes as for the first time since the onset of the pandemic a nominated visitor was allowed to see a relative indoors and hold their hand.
It was the first time Portsmouth resident Jennifer Holland 71, was able to have any physical contact with her 94-year-old mother, Maisie Hider, since the start of the Covid crisis. She was visiting her mother in Oakland Grange Care home in Southsea.
Jennifer said: ‘I had not touched my mother for a year – it has been tremendously difficult as she had been living with me for six months before she came into the home. It was amazing to hold her hand again. You can’t beat this feeling.’
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Jennifer had been worried that Maisie would not be content with simply holding hands.
She added: ‘I was concerned that she would just throw her arms around me and that I might have step back. But we held hands, chatted, sang songs and she just kept staring at my hand.
‘It was fantastic. I can’t wait to see her again on Sunday which I have only just realised is Mother’s Day.’
While the meeting was a significant landmark in allowing loved ones in care to once again see their relatives, restrictions still remain with meeting times limited to one permanently selected person and duration restricted to 20 minutes.
However Jennifer is hopeful she will soon be able to once again give Maisie a hug, although ‘only when it is safe to do so’.
She said: ‘I feel ecstatic at seeing my mother face to face again. Things are getting better and hopefully we will get back to normality.’
Seeing the impact of the separation of families and residents has also had a big impact on staff at the care home who have done their best to mitigate the situation with an outdoor marquee used during the summer months and a meeting pod which allowed people to meet indoors with a barrier of a plastic screen.
Care home manager Charisma Williams said: ‘It has been really difficult for residents and family members. The greatest challenge has been that some residents can’t understand why they’re unable to see their family in person.’
With all but one of the home’s residents having received their first Covid vaccination and scheduled to receive their second jab on March 16, Charisma feels now is the time to at least start to loosen restrictions.
She added: ‘For the mental health of residents and families now is the right time to begin to allow face-to-face meetings indoors.’
Speaking following the decision, health secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘This is just the first step to getting back to where we want to be. We need to make sure we keep the infection rate down to allow greater visiting in a step-by-step way in the future.’