A mother and daughter and a husband and wife have been able to hold each other’s hands for the first time in months after care home residents in England were allowed visitors indoors on Monday.
Residents are able to nominate someone to visit them indoors, while those with the highest care needs can receive more frequent visits from a relative or friend who will provide essential care and support.
It meant Kay Fossett, 66, from south Croydon, south London, could visit her mother, Sylvia Newsom, 86, at Gracewell of Sutton care home for the first time since December.
Ms Fossett broke down in tears as she squeezed her mother’s hand.
“It’s nice to see one another and be next to each other,” Ms Fossett said.
“Just to be able to feel close, today is the best day.”
Ms Fossett was able to visit Ms Newsom regularly when she moved into the care home in Sutton, south London, in November, but, following Covid-19 restrictions and a short outbreak over winter, she has since only been able to see her mother in a room stylised as a pod, with a glass screen between them.
As Ms Newsom suffers from Alzheimer’s it was difficult for her to understand what her daughter was saying through the screen, Ms Fossett said.
She added: “When we had to see each other in the pod, because her hearing isn’t good, she could hardly hear me.
“It was quite sad really.”
She said she is looking forward to the future and more family members being able to visit her mother, adding: “Hopefully, with vaccinations and tests, I can take Mum outside and have a cup of tea with her, just do normal things.”
Ms Newsom smiled at her daughter as she remarked: “Her hands are warmer than mine, she’s lovely and warm.”
Meanwhile, fellow resident Stephen Hayes celebrated his 51st birthday at the care home with a visit from his wife, Karon, also 51.
It was the first time in a year that Mrs Hayes has been able to hold her husband’s hands, she said, after he moved into the care home just before the first lockdown in March last year.
The couple have been together since they were 17 and have four children and one grandchild, whom Mr Hayes has not yet been able to hold.
On being able to see her husband, Mrs Hayes said: “This is quite a big moment, it has been extremely difficult to only see him through a window.
“It’s been extremely lonely, hard and isolating, not having that physical touch and support.”
Mr Hayes, a former builder, has been using a wheelchair since suffering a stroke in July 2019 and is waiting for adaptations to his home in Wallington, south London, to be finalised before he can return.
But the pandemic has caused delays, and he has only been able to see family and friends through the window of his room at the care home.
He said: “I have been quite lucky with my room on the ground floor, I have quite a lot of people visit through the window.
“The pandemic has really made what’s difficult really extremely difficult, it’s affected everyone.
“But the news is so much more positive now.”
Visitors are required to be tested beforehand, as well as wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), and are advised to keep physical contact to a minimum.
Government guidelines permit hand-holding, but hugs and kissing are not allowed, in order to help reduce the chance of spreading the virus.
In care homes where there are coronavirus outbreaks, nominated visitors will not be able to go inside.
But those providing essential care, and visits when the resident is at the end of their life, can continue.
It is around a year since some care homes first closed their doors, several weeks ahead of the first lockdown on March 23.
Gracewell of Sutton general manager Jogie Nograles Dellota said restricted social contact from loved ones during lockdown had severely affected some residents’ mental health, particularly those with dementia.
“We were protecting everyone against Covid, but people overlook the fact that the lockdowns have other effects,” she said.
“We’ve seen residents suffering, some stopped eating, and seen others giving up.
“All they know is their loved one stopped seeing them. We have explained why but they just don’t get it.
“There was a feeling of abandonment.”
She described residents being allowed a nominated visitor as “the beginning of the light at the end of the tunnel”.