As part of OCN’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we took a number of steps to help out where we could. One of these steps was for our core group of volunteers to be matched with OCN participants (people living with dementia and unpaid carers). Volunteers would then, with agreement from the participant, provide a regular ‘safe and well’ phone call at intervals agreed between the two. Whilst OCN is not a direct support service, we thought this was one way we could help out. The telephone support was received well and provided emotional support, signposting to help and support and helped towards combatting the loneliness and isolation people were experiencing. One of the other benefits was our trained volunteers being in a unique position to record and document participant experiences of lockdown.
The following is an account of one participant’s experience of the pandemic, changing guidance and visiting a loved one in a care home setting. We have anonymised the people and places in this blog.
Our volunteer telephones Catherine from time to time to see how they are coping. Catherine was carer for her husband Clive until he went into a care home. Clive has since moved to another care home.
Catherine said that she was very depressed and angry. This is due to the pandemic guidance constantly changing and her husband being in care. She feels very isolated living on her own. Catherine has a son who visits most weekends. He has a 5 hour drive each way.
Catherine said that as a coping mechanism, and to relieve the boredom she walks for miles.
Catherine was very angry and frustrated during her visit to Clive recently. The home supplied her with the full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). She met her husband in a room by themselves and she had to sit 2 metres away, seated at the opposite end of a table. When Catherine asked if she could hold Clive’s hand or give him a hug, as this was her way of reassuring him, she was told that was not allowed. Catherine had observed that staff members who popped in now and again did not have the full PPE on.
Catherine is very clued up about this pandemic and she felt it was not in Clive’s interest to cause a fuss or complain as he would find it upsetting. Catherine said to our volunteer it felt like certain rules for some and different rules for others.
Why is it, even in full PPE including latex gloves and after more than 40 years of marriage, that she is not allowed to hold Clive’s hand when people who have just met him are allowed to touch him?
Produced by OCN volunteers, partners and participants.
This is the latest in a series of blog posts reflecting on the experiences of people living with dementia, their carers and neighbourhoods during the coronavirus pandemic. The posts are a synthesis of perspectives gathered with people living with dementia in Central Scotland over the course of the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020. These have been collected by OCN volunteers and drafted collaboratively in order to build a larger picture of the impact of Covid-19 and what the changes around it have meant for people living with dementia and their carers. It is important to highlight that in most instances these are people who will have been shielding for a significant period of time. It is clear, therefore, that more must be done to improve their access to support, community and to reduce loneliness. We hope these articles will widen understanding of the issues and draw attention to what can be a hidden problem for many people.