Seven in ten people with a close relative in a care home have been unable to see them since March, shocking new figures reveal.
Hundreds of thousands of family members have undergone ‘eight torturous months’, banned from visiting their loved ones.
Others have been invited to care homes for an ‘end-of-life’ visit – only to be told they must watch their spouse or parent die through a window or on a video call.
A survey by Age UK found that 70 per cent of people have not been able to visit loved ones in person since care homes shut their doors at the start of the epidemic.
And a third have not been offered an alternative to in-person visits, such as a video calls or phone calls.
Some 45 per cent said their loved one was unable to use digital options to communicate, making face-to-face visits vital.
A survey of nearly 3,000 people has found 70 per cent of people have not been able to visit loved ones in person since March – while a third were offered no alternative to in-person visits. Edward Holmes, 81, hasn’t been able to see his granddaughter Alysha Astley, since lockdown began
This is due to many residents being deaf, blind or having dementia – meaning they cannot understand or use the technology.
The survey of nearly 3,000 people also highlighted the tragic consequences of visitor bans on bed-bound residents who cannot even stand up to wave at family through a window.
The research, shared exclusively with the Daily Mail, highlights the urgency of our Christmas campaign.
We are calling for the UK’s 410,000 care home residents to be allowed to hold hands and hug their loved ones through regular testing of visitors.
Desperate families fear they will be robbed of their chance to say goodbye, as many residents are in the final weeks or months of life.
Matt Hancock promised to roll-out testing for care home visitors by Christmas. But the testing scheme is operating in only 20 homes. Campaign groups have said lockdown restrictions are ‘inhumane,’ for barring visits
On Monday, Matt Hancock pledged to roll out testing of visitors to all care homes by Christmas, allowing them meaningful visits in person.
But the testing scheme is operating in only 20 homes, despite figures showing the UK has more than 150,000 spare tests going unused each day.
Campaigners urged ministers to roll out visitor testing immediately, warning that many residents did not have much time left.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: ‘For many older people living in care homes, time really isn’t on their side, so we need to get on with it as fast as we possibly can.’
Jenny Morrison, from campaign group Rights for Residents, said people were being denied visits ‘for no good reason’.
She said: ‘Some people have got so desperate they have turned up at the window just to get a glimpse of their family member’s face and care home managers have drawn the curtains.
‘Others haven’t been able to have a single visit unless it is for the end-of-life.
‘Then they go down and watch their loved one pass away through a window or on FaceTime.
‘It is inhumane.
Care home residents are being denied visits ‘for no good reason,’ says rights campaigner Jenny Morrison, while the Alzheimer’s Society has said the current situation is an ‘unimaginable tragedy’
‘I spoke to one family who watched their mother dying through a window. They said they wished with all their heart they had just bashed down the window and gone in there to be with her.’
Fiona Carragher, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said the situation in care homes was an ‘unimaginable tragedy’.
She added: ‘Many of these care home residents – at least 70 per cent of whom have dementia – don’t understand why no-one’s been to see them and have been left feeling abandoned.
Labour care spokesman Liz Kendall said: ‘The Government must now make family members with loved ones in care homes a top priority for testing.’
‘I just want to cuddle mum’
Before lockdown, Sheila Andrew had seen her mother every single day for 13 years.
But since February 28, she has seen Florence Greenwood, 88, for 20 minutes in total – through a perspex screen.
Mrs Andrew, 61, pictured left with her mother, says she is worried about the impact lockdown is having on Mrs Greenwood, who suffers from Alzheimer’s.
Since March, Sheila Andrew has seen her mother Florence Greenwood, 88, for a total of 20 minutes. The mother and daughter (pictured together) had seen each other every day for 13 years, prior to the pandemic
Mrs Andrew, of Keighley, west Yorkshire, said: ‘I have not really been able to see my mum for the past nine months.
‘I saw her twice for ten minutes at a time through the perspex screen but her eyesight is so poor now she couldn’t see me.
‘I needed to hug or kiss her to make sure she knew I was there.’
Mrs Andrew said it ‘would mean the world’ to be able to give her mother a cuddle on December 25, and accused the Government of ‘taking Christmas away’ from the vulnerable.
‘Grandad asks why we haven’t been to see him’
Edward Holmes is best friends with his granddaughter Alysha – but the pair haven’t seen each other since March.
Alysha Astley, 33, pictured left with Mr Holmes, used to see her grandfather every day. She works five minutes away from the 81-year-old’s care home in Liverpool and before the pandemic would go and see him on her breaks.
Mrs Astley said her grandad, who has vascular dementia, does not understand why his family have stopped visiting.
She said: ‘When he was younger, he always used to tell us he didn’t want us to leave him in a care home. Now he’s been asking us why we haven’t been coming to visit him. It’s really hard.’
Mr Holmes, a former bus shunter, had his 81st birthday on Tuesday but was not allowed to see his family. Mrs Astley went to the home to drop off his presents but was not allowed a window visit.
She said her family weren’t told that window visits were available at the beginning of lockdown. By the time they found out, another resident’s family got into the care home without permission and window visits were stopped.
Mr Holmes has had one garden visit from his wife Tina, 75, since March.
Mrs Astley hopes she will be able to see her grandad this Christmas. She said: ‘I’m used to seeing him every day. He’s like my best mate. It would mean everything if we could see him on Christmas Day.’
Hoping for Xmas hug
For Deborah Hand, visiting her mother Shirley on the other side of a window is not an option.
The 76-year-old suffers from dementia and is non-verbal and Deborah thinks a window visit would only confuse her more.
Deborah Hand cannot visit her mother Shirley, 76, behind a perspex screen. Ms Hand fears her mother would only be left confused, as she suffers from dementia and is non-verbal
But it means the mother and daughter, pictured left, have been cruelly shut off from each other since before the pandemic began.
Mrs Hand, from Salford, fears she could miss her mother’s last Christmas. She said: ‘All she has left is her touch to communicate.
‘I’ve spoken to her on FaceTime but that also confuses her.’
Her mother has not seen a single member of her family since the start of the year. Mrs Hand said: ‘This could be her last Christmas and I won’t even get to give her a hug.’