The family of a great-grandfather have shared heartbreaking images of him one year apart to highlight the cruel effect a year of separation is having on care home residents.
Photos of dementia-hit John Ross, 89, show the dreadful impact that long-term isolation to protect against coronavirus can have.
The former engineer has been living in a care home in south Liverpool away from his wife of 63 years, Marlene, for over a year.
As pictures show, this time last year he was looking healthy and smiling as he put his arm around Marlene after presenting her with a bouquet of roses on Valentine’s Day.
In another picture taken around the same time he looked well – and his family say he was in good shape at the time.
The family of great-grandfather John Ross, 89, have shared heartbreaking images of him one year apart to highlight the cruel effect a year of separation is having on care home residents
But after a year of separation from his loving family because of the coronavirus pandemic, John has deteriorated.
His smile is gone and he looks gaunt and unkempt, and when his daughter Penny Ogden is allowed a rare visit, he tells her: ‘I’ve got nothing left to live for. I want to die.’
John was born in India and met Marlene there, before the two moved back to the UK to get married and settle in Liverpool.
He has only seen his beloved wife once for 20 minutes in the past 12 months – and his children only a handful of times.
John has five children, 21 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Penny said the lack of family contact has been devastating for him and sadly means he doesn’t remember many members of his family.
She said: ‘In the last year he has deteriorated so much in his appearance. He just looks absolutely awful. He’s lost so much weight, he’s not eating or drinking. He has changed so much.
As pictures show, this time last year he was looking healthy and smiling as he put his arm around Marlene after presenting her with a bouquet of roses on Valentine’s Day
‘The photos prior to lockdown and now show his deterioration – it is unbelievable. He needs a haircut, he needs a shave. He misses all of that.’
Penny says she can count on one hand the number of visits she’s had with her dad in the past year.
And while the 59-year-old understands the need to protect care home residents from the virus, she says it has gone too far the other way at the price of her dad’s quality of life.
She said: ‘It was his birthday in September and my mum, who’s also in her eighties, got to visit him.
‘It was an outdoor visit for 20 minutes. She wasn’t allowed to hold him, to touch him or give him a hug. And all he did was cry.
‘My mum came away absolutely distraught. She just feels so guilty because she says she’s put him into this care home.
‘Since March 12, 2020, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen my dad.’
Penny and her family say her dad is receiving good care and staff are doing their best in a difficult situation but something needs to change.
Scrap ban on care home visits by March, charities urge Johnson
Boris Johnson was last night urged to give the elderly a ‘ray of hope’ by allowing families to see loved ones in care homes next month.
A coalition of charities banded together to write an open letter to the PM calling on him to allow visits by relatives from the beginning of March ‘for the sake of humanity’.
And they said his roadmap out of lockdown, published next week, should announce that this step would be followed by the relaxation of the rules to allow access to all relatives and friends.
The charities, including Age UK and the National Care Forum, say this is having a devastating effect on their mental health. And they insist that, with virus cases falling, now is the time to consider allowing visits.
It has also emerged that the official regulator, the Care Quality Commission, will carry out inspections if care homes impose blanket bans when lockdown has finished.
The letter told Mr Johnson: ‘We are writing to you today to implore you to include a commitment to reopening care homes to visiting by essential care givers on March 1 within the ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown you are reported as being due to publish on or around February 22.
‘For hundreds of thousands of older people living in care homes and their families – in many cases kept apart now for almost a year – this is the ray of hope they are longing for. Please give it to them.’
She added: ‘He’s had his vaccination, my mum’s had it. We still can’t go in and see him.
‘Even if one member of the family was able to get in – I know it’s not going to go back to the way it was – but they’ve got to do something. It is absolutely desperate.’
Campaign group Rights for Residents, along with Age UK, John’s Campaign, National Care Forum, Relatives & Residents Association and the Nursing Homes Association, want people in care homes to be able to select a relative as an essential care giver so they can be reunited with their loved ones.
Being designated as a care giver will give relatives the same status as care home staff, meaning they will be entitled to have the vaccine and be able to make in-person visits indoors and without glass screens.
But the government and many care operators believe it is too soon, with risk of infection still too high and many care home residents yet to receive their second dose of the vaccine.
The only exceptional circumstance is when residents are receiving end-of-life care.
Meanwhile thousands of vulnerable care home residents in the UK have gone almost a year without proper visits from their loved ones, instead having to settle for video calls or seeing them through a window, which can be confusing especially for dementia patients.
Rights for Residents is calling on Parliament to pass emergency legislation that enshrines the rights of ‘essential family carers’ in law.
They say: ‘We demand that the government, local authorities and care providers find a more humane solution that balances the risk of contracting Covid-19 against the devastating mental and physical deterioration we are witnessing as people remain locked away.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘We know visits to care homes are crucial in supporting the health and wellbeing of residents, which is why we have updated guidance on visits during lockdown.
‘We are acutely aware of the importance of visits for everyone involved and visits can continue to take place with arrangements such as outdoor visiting, substantial screens, or visiting pods.
‘While the vaccines provide protection from serious disease, we do not yet know if they prevent someone from passing on the virus to others.
This means it is still important to follow the visiting guidance.
‘We will do everything possible to enable close contact visits the moment it is safe to do so and will provide an update in due course.’