A woman who watched her mother die of COVID through a care home window while standing in torrential rain has said the treatment of families during the pandemic was “just inhumane”.
As coronavirus spread across the world, care homes were at the epicentre of the crisis due to the high numbers of elderly and clinically vulnerable people living there.
Strict rules were brought in curtailing visits to loved ones and one woman, Cristina, told Lunchtime Live that she found being separated from her mother very difficult:
“I’d visit my Mam every single day, if not twice a day, so that was very traumatic for me,” she recalled.
The family would regularly video called their mother on WhatsApp but her dementia meant she did not understand the technology and it always seemed like her attention was elsewhere:
“Time came then later on in the pandemic that we got half an hour for one person out of the family per week to go in,” Cristina continued.
“And we couldn’t touch her, couldn’t sit near her and my Mam was the kind of person, even through her dementia, she’d always put her handout and try to touch you.
“She just wanted affection all the time and I couldn’t give her that.”
Worse was to come when Cristina called up the care home and a member of staff told her that her mother had COVID and was on oxygen:
“So I begged them, I begged them on the phone to let me come out to be with her and they said, ‘No, keep your phone on,’” Cristina added.
“In a panic I just rang the rest of the family and said, ‘There’s something not right, Mam has COVID. I don’t think she’s doing too good.’
“So my brother and his wife came into me and as they came in I got another phone call saying, ‘You need to come out.’
“So I asked them, ‘Is my Mam dying?’ And they just said, ‘No, you need to come out.’
“And there was a second phone call when I was just trying to get organised to get out the door… and my sister answered my phone and they said, ‘Bring an umbrella.
“So we ended up watching my Mam die for over two hours in torrential rain and wind outside the window.
“And even when we arrived at that door that night, the staff didn’t know why we were there.
“They weren’t even informed that we were coming out. They were looking at us as if, ‘Who are ye?’”
“The worst thing about it was no member of staff went into check on her in all the time we were there.
“She died completely alone with us watching her and it’s the most traumatic experience that anybody could ever imagine.
“It’s just inhumane; inhumane is the only way I could describe it because I have to live with that every single day - as do the rest of my family.
“This can’t happen to families again. Things do have to change. Families should be allowed in - especially at the end of life. It’s just traumatic for families that are still having to live with what happened.”
Last year Denis A Cusack, a professor at UCD and a senior coroner for the County Kildare District, concluded that care homes had “borne the brunt” of COVID-19 deaths and that “we've got to remember and learn from these deaths.”
Main image: A woman on oxygen. Picture by: Alamy.com