Lockdown anniversary: Portsmouth care homes host bittersweet reunions for dementia patients who have forgotten the pandemic

IN CARE homes across Portsmouth, families are enjoying bittersweet reunions after being apart for 12 months - but the significance is being lost on some residents with dementia.

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 7:00 am
Oakland Grange Care Home in Merton Road, Southsea. Pictured is: (l-r) Isadora Esmeraldo, chef, Linda Otieno, care assistant, Charisma Williams, care home manager, and Fabio Freitas, senior carer, at Oakland Grange Care Home. Picture: Sarah Standing (111220-339)

Visits to care home residents resumed on March 8 this year, allowing families to once again see their loved ones in person after more than a year apart.

The change in the rules has created emotional scenes in one Portsmouth care home, where staff and families have faced residents who cannot comprehend the time they have lost.

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Jennifer Holland and her mother Maisie Hider at Oakland Grange Picture: Habibur Rahman

Charisma Williams, the manager of Oakland Grange care home, in Merton Road, said: ‘We have 37 residents here and the majority have some form of dementia.

'I's been really challenging – a lot of them don't understand how long it has been, and we have to give them constant reassurance.

‘We don't really say to the residents, ‘oh you haven't seen your daughter for a year’, because that might make them more anxious.

‘One of my residents, her daughter was crying during a visit, and her mother was asking her why she was crying. She didn't understand how long they had been apart. Her daughter said, ‘I've just missed you mum’.’

A fortnight ago The News reported on the first face-to-face visit in a year for one Oakland Grange resident. Jennifer Holland was able to hold her mum Maisie Hider's hand under the loosening of restrictions which came in on March 8 – a change which Jennifer described on the day as an ‘amazing feeling’ which left her ecstatic.

Zoom calls and window visits have been a vital lifeline for families over the last year, according to senior carer Jo Cole at Hartwell Lodge, in Kiln Road, Fareham, She said: ‘With family not being able to visit, it’s been very frustrating for residents.

‘With dementia, it’s hard – you don’t understand the concept of time.

‘Some of the residents have been asking all the time for visitors and we have to just repeat ourselves.

‘It’s been very hard.’

Despite a year of hardship, care home residents and carers alike have shown their resilience, according to Charisma.

The care home manager of six years said: ‘Last year, if I had been told we'd be in another lockdown a year later, I think I would have cried.

‘But I have been surprised how resilient people are. I didn't even realise it's been a year that we have been living like this. It seems normal.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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