York family’s struggles during the Covid crisis described as ‘heartbreaking’ by Victoria Derbyshire

Victoria Derbyshire. Photograph: BBC
20 Sep 2020 @ 11.19 am
| News

One woman’s story of how the coronavirus pandemic has affected her family shows the very real human toll of the crisis.

The woman, who gave her name only as Rebecca, shared her experiences with the BBC broadcaster Victoria Derbyshire, who said: “This is heartbreaking”.

Victoria posted the letter on Twitter which has been retweeted nearly 200 times.

In it, Rebecca describes the distress caused to her 93-year-old mother Viv, who has vascular dementia, by the lockdown restrictions.

She writes: “She lives in a care home in York. Over the summer we have been able to do outside visits once a week.

“These have been challenging because my mum doesn’t really understand why we can’t come to her room or give her a hug. She also struggles with hearing conversation from a distance of 2m.

“Now we are coming into autumn these visits will stop and as yet there is no plan for indoor visiting at her home.”

Rebecca reveals still more heartache. “Tragically my sister took her own life last month. She had mental health issues made worse by lockdown.

“This has been devastating for our family and I feel even more heartbroken that I haven’t been able to tell mum. She would struggle to deal with this at the best of times and it would be just too cruel to tell her when we can’t be with her or comfort her.”

In her letter Rebecca describes herself as a naturally positive person, “but I must admit that I feel let down by the public services and our government and I know there are many other people facing these kind of problems and life events with much less support than I have”.

People were dismayed by her experience. One said: “Oh my goodness – that poor lady and her family have been through such awful times. What amazing strength shines from her letter. I hope that the future is brighter for them than it seems currently.”

The letter in full

Hi Victoria

Thank you for your excellent item just now highlighting the very difficult situation for people with dementia missing out on family support.

My mum Viv is 93 and has vascular dementia. She lives in a care home in York. Over the summer we have been able to do outside visits once a week. These have been challenging because my mum doesn’t really understand why we can’t come to her room or give her a hug. She also struggles with hearing conversation from a distance of 2m.

Now we are coming into autumn these visits will stop and as yet there is no plan for indoor visiting at her home.

We bought my mum an iPad which she can use to make video calls when staff are available to help. She remains quite suspicious of using this as she can’ t properly understand how it works or why we are using this instead of coming to see her.

Tragically my sister took her own life last month. She had mental health issues made worse by lockdown. This has been devastating for our family and I feel even more heartbroken that I haven’t been able to tell mum. She would struggle to deal with this at the best of times and it would be just too cruel to tell her when we can’t be with her or comfort her.

My older brother and I have also taken the decision to care for my younger brother with Down’s Syndrome between us as he would also be isolated if he went back to his supported living home and needs our support to deal with the grief of losing his sister.

I’ve had to give up my job and career have no certainty that I’ll be able to return.

I’m a very positive person with good supportive friendships and three wonderful grown up daughters. I’m naturally a problem solver but I must admit that I feel let down by the public services and our government and I know there are many other people facing these kind of problems and life events with much less support than I have.

Please keep up your excellent reporting of the personal and social impact of the chaotic Covid response in this country.

Best Wishes

Rebecca