Husband of Leeds care home resident tells of pain as lockdown kept them apart

The doting husband of a care home resident, who suffers from dementia, has told of his pain at being unable to visit her during lockdown.

By David Spereall
Wednesday, 20th July 2022, 4:45 am

Andrew Paterson, from Leeds, was critical of the ban imposed by the government on routine care home visits during the pandemic, saying it should never be repeated.

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Mr Paterson said his wife stopped eating and lost weight during the early part of lockdown, which he blamed on her being cut off from the outside world.

The doting husband of a care home resident, who suffers from dementia, has told of his pain at being unable to visit her during lockdown.

His comments were supported by Healthwatch Leeds, who said that banning family visits had affected the physical and mental health of elderly care home residents.

Speaking to local councillors at a health scrutiny meeting on Tuesday, Mr Paterson said: “I can’t describe how awful it was on March 22 two years ago when I was ready to depart from my wife, not knowing when I’d see her again.

“The lockdown started and visiting was closed instantly.

“Thankfully she is still with us now.”

Initially there was a blanket ban on any care home visits when lockdown was first imposed on March 23, 2020.

The following week, the government issued new guidance allowing visits in “exceptional circumstances”, such as when a resident was close to death.

But Healthwatch, which represents people who use health services, said that there was huge disparity between Leeds care homes in how the guidance was implemented.

While some later allowed visitors when restrictions eased, others were slower to let guests return.

Mr Paterson, said that some of the guidance imposed by the government at the time was “wrong”.

He added: “Little or no consideration was given to the consequences of the measures that were imposed.

“Visiting has been reintroduced now. But let’s hope it can’t happen like that again from the outset.”

Mr Paterson described going from spending 20 hours a week with his wife to zero as “painful”.

He added: “In the first two months of lockdown she stopped eating and drinking and she lost half a stone in weight.

“It’s impossible for me to accept that was to do with anything other than the fact she’d been cut off from the outside world.”

Victoria Eaton, Leeds’ director of public health, said that Covid had presented a huge risk to care home residents in 2020.

But she added that lessons would be learnt about the impact visiting bans have had.

She told councillors: “We can’t understate the seriousness of the risk to our most vulnerable citizens at that point in the pandemic.

“At every point in the pandemic we did everything we could to support people’s health and wellbeing.

“We need to learn lessons around that balance. With hindsight, we would want to do things differently next time.”