December 4, 2020

Great-grandmother, 78, faces being EVICTED from her care home today over unauthorised visit – Daily Mail

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8956731/Great-grandmother-78-faces-EVICTED-care-home-today-unauthorised-visit.html

A great-grandmother will be evicted from her care home after having an ‘unauthorised’ visit through an open patio door with her police officer daughter.

Elizabeth Bow, 78, who has dementia, has been ordered to leave Aspen Hill Village in Leeds after bosses accused her 53-year-old daughter, Denise Hobbs, of not adhering to its ‘visiting policy’.

It is the latest harrowing example of the devastating impact restrictions on care home visits are having on families, which has prompted ministers to vow to allow in-person visits by Christmas backed up by a testing regime.

Care home residents have been barred from meaningful contact with their families for the past eight months because of coronavirus restrictions. The rules have left them unable to hug their relatives or even hold hands.

Instead they have been reduced to waving at husbands, wives, sons or daughters through a window or plastic screen. Others have depended on ‘drive-through’ visits and some haven’t been able to see their loved ones at all.

Ms Hobbs today said she was ‘heartbroken’ that her mother had been ordered to leave, and felt terrified about having to find her a new home in the midst of a pandemic.

‘My mum is being punished because I love her and want to visit her,’ she told MailOnline. ‘I feel like she’s been abandoned.’

Elizabeth Bow, 78, who has dementia, is pictured speaking to one of her relatives on the phone on her 87th birthday while they look at each other through a closed window

Elizabeth Bow, 78, who has dementia, is pictured speaking to one of her relatives on the phone on her 87th birthday while they look at each other through a closed window

Elizabeth Bow, 78, who has dementia, is pictured speaking to one of her relatives on the phone on her 87th birthday while they look at each other through a closed window  

Ms Bow is a great-grandmother of 12 who worked as a nurse in her native Scotland and later as a carer in Scarborough.

She moved to Aspen Hill on April 29, and the care home gave her a room by a patio to allow visitors to speak to her through the open door and window.

Ms Bow must leave Aspen Hill Village in Leeds after bosses accused her daughter, Denise Hobbs, of not adhering to its 'visiting policy'. They are pictured together

Ms Bow must leave Aspen Hill Village in Leeds after bosses accused her daughter, Denise Hobbs, of not adhering to its 'visiting policy'. They are pictured together

Ms Bow must leave Aspen Hill Village in Leeds after bosses accused her daughter, Denise Hobbs, of not adhering to its ‘visiting policy’. They are pictured together 

Ms Hobbs describing her experience on Twitter

Ms Hobbs describing her experience on Twitter

Ms Hobbs describing her experience on Twitter 

During the early stages of the pandemic, Ms Hobbs and her four siblings would visit every day.

‘We didn’t take advantage and it was all with the blessing of the staff,’ she said. ‘We did what we were told – which was that we could take 10 of 15 minutes per visit.’

On September, Leeds moved to Tier 3 status, meaning visits were restricted further.

Ms Hobbs could only speak to her mother occasionally while she was dropping items off, and said staff remained supportive of this arrangement.

But on October 4, she arrived for an unsolicited visit and – seeing the patio door open – went towards it.

When they saw her, nurse and senior carer who were in the room said she would have to leave.

‘I burst into tears and asked ‘is she a prisoner now?’ because she hadn’t been out for 39 days,’ she recalled. 

‘I asked them to put mum in a wheelchair and bring her to the gate, so I would be on the outside and she was on the inside.

‘But they said that was against the rules as well.’

More than two weeks later, on October 20, Ms Hobbs said she received the devastating news her mother would be evicted.

‘The phone call came completely out of the blue,’ she said.

The original eviction date was set for today, but Ms Hobbs said the care home had agreed to give her more time to find a new place for her mother to live.

Aspen Hill Village insist her family had been repeatedly warned about unauthorised visits.

But she angrily denied this and said she had always acted with the consent of staff.

‘It’s absolutely appalling,’ she said. ‘They’ve said that we were repeatedly told, but that is wrong.’

Are you battling to see your loved one who is stuck in a care home?

Contact rory.tingle@mailonline.co.uk 

The tearful daughter accused the care home of a ‘revenge eviction after she complained on Facebook about the way it was treating residents – but its director strongly denied this.

Ms Hobbs thanked the support of charity Care Campaign for the Vulnerable, which campaigns for safer care, and its founder Jayne Connery. 

She is also calling for an independent review of every care home eviction. 

Aspen Hill Village said in a statement that the family had ‘repeatedly’ breached its visiting policy, adding: ‘The resident was asked to leave because her family refuses to comply with our visiting policy

‘We appreciate that restrictions placed on visiting is exceptionally difficult for our residents and their loved ones. 

‘However, we have a duty of care to ensure the safety of all our residents and to minimise the risk of transmission of the virus into our homes. This requires us to follow government guidance which restricts visiting.’

The care home ‘categorically refuted’ any claims it was a revenge eviction.    

Ms Hobbs said she was 'heartbroken' that her mother had been evicted, and felt terrified about having to find her a new home in the midst of a pandemic

Ms Hobbs said she was 'heartbroken' that her mother had been evicted, and felt terrified about having to find her a new home in the midst of a pandemic

Ms Hobbs said she was ‘heartbroken’ that her mother had been evicted, and felt terrified about having to find her a new home in the midst of a pandemic

On Monday, Heath Secretary Matt Hancock announced that care homes will finally be able to allow in-person visits over Christmas by testing relatives for Covid. Pictured is a visitor being tested today at King Charles Court nursing home in Falmouth as the trial gets underway

On Monday, Heath Secretary Matt Hancock announced that care homes will finally be able to allow in-person visits over Christmas by testing relatives for Covid. Pictured is a visitor being tested today at King Charles Court nursing home in Falmouth as the trial gets underway

On Monday, Heath Secretary Matt Hancock announced that care homes will finally be able to allow in-person visits over Christmas by testing relatives for Covid. Pictured is a visitor being tested today at King Charles Court nursing home in Falmouth as the trial gets underway 

In-person visits are banned under current rules, leaving thousands of families unable to touch their loved ones since the start of the pandemic in March. 

Relatives can often only see relatives through plastic screens, although some homes allow garden or drive-by visits. The form these distanced visits are allowed to take is decided by local councils and individual care homes.  

On Monday, Heath Secretary Matt Hancock announced that care homes will finally be able to allow in-person visits over Christmas by testing relatives for Covid-19. 

How care homes became the Covid frontline: A timeline of failings 

FEBRUARY – SAGE scientists warned Government ‘very early on’ about the risk to care homes

Britain’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, revealed in April that he and other senior scientists warned politicians ‘very early on’ about the risk COVID-19 posed to care homes.

He said: ‘So very early on we looked at a number of topics, we looked at nosocomial infection very early on, that’s the spread in hospitals, and we flagged that as something that the NHS needed to think about.

‘We flagged the fact that we thought care homes would be an important area to look at, and we flagged things like vaccine development and so on. So we try to take a longer term view of things as well as dealing with the urgent and immediate areas.’

The SAGE committee met for the first time on January 22, suggesting ‘very early on’ in its discussions was likely the end of January or the beginning of February.

MARCH – Hospital patients discharged to homes without tests

In March and April at least 25,000 people were discharged from NHS hospitals into care homes without getting tested for coronavirus, a report by the National Audit Office found.

This move came at the peak of the outbreak and has been blamed for ‘seeding’ Covid-19 outbreaks in the homes which later became impossible to control.

NHS England issued an order to its hospitals to free up as many beds as they could, and later sent out joint guidance with the Department of Health saying that patients did not need to be tested beforehand.

Chair of the public accounts committee and a Labour MP in London, Meg Hillier, said: ‘Residents and staff were an afterthought yet again: out of sight and out of mind, with devastating consequences.’

MARCH – Public Health England advice still did not raise alarm about care home risk and allowed visits

An early key error in the handling of the crisis, social care consultant Melanie Henwood told the Mail on Sunday, was advice issued by Public Health England (PHE) on February 25 that it remained ‘very unlikely’ people in care homes would become infected as there was ‘currently no transmission of Covid-19 in the UK’.

Yet a fortnight earlier the UK Government’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling committee had concluded: ‘It is a realistic probability that there is already sustained transmission in the UK, or that it will become established in the coming weeks.’

On March 13, PHE advice for care homes changed ‘asking no one to visit who has suspected Covid-19 or is generally unwell’ – but visits were still allowed.

Three days later, Mr Johnson said: ‘Absolutely, we don’t want to see people unnecessarily visiting care homes.’

MARCH/APRIL – Testing not readily available to care home residents

In March and April coronavirus swab tests – to see who currently has the disease – were rationed and not available to all care home residents suspected of having Covid-19.

Government policy dictated that a sample of residents would be tested if one showed symptoms, then an outbreak would be declared and anyone else with symptoms presumed to be infected without a test.

The Department of Health has been in control of who gets Covid-19 tests and when, based on UK testing capacity.

MARCH/APRIL – Bosses warned homes didn’t have enough PPE

Care home bosses were furious in March and April – now known to have been the peak of the UK’s epidemic – that their staff didn’t have enough access to personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks and aprons.

A letter sent from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) to the Department of Health saw the care chiefs accuse a senior figure at the Department of overseeing a ‘shambolic response’.

Adass said it was facing ‘confusion’ and additional work as a result of mixed messaging put out by the Government.

It said the situation around PPE, which was by then mandatory for all healthcare workers, was ‘shambolic’ and that deliveries had been ‘paltry’ or ‘haphazard’.

A shortage of PPE has been a consistent issue from staff in care homes since the pandemic began, and the union Unison revealed at the beginning of May that it had already received 3,600 reports about inadequate access to PPE from workers in the sector.

APRIL – Care home deaths left out of official fatality count

The Department of Health refused to include people who had died outside of hospitals in its official daily death count until April 29, three weeks after deaths had peaked in the UK.

It started to include the ‘all settings’ measure from that date and added on 3,811 previously uncounted Covid-19 deaths on the first day.

NOVEMBER – In response to anger over the continued ban on in-person visits, Matt Hancock vows to introduce a testing regime for visitors by Christmas.  

The Government is piloting rapid testing in 20 care homes in low-infection areas in Hampshire, Devon and Cornwall to see if it is safe to let family members visit vulnerable residents indoors.

Mr Hancock said, if effective, he plans to expand the programme across England within weeks. In a round of interviews this morning, the Health Secretary said: ‘I hope to have that in place for all care homes by Christmas.’

The move would finally allow families to visit loved ones in the flesh without the need for ‘prison-like’ windows for the first time in eight months.

The pilot will aim to assess whether indoor visits must still be socially distanced or whether relatives will be able to hug for the first time in months.

The trial schemes will use both standard PCR tests or new lateral flow tests, which give results within minutes but miss between half and 25 per cent of cases.

Relatives and campaign groups have warned for months that the current rules have taken a catastrophic toll on the wellbeing of vulnerable residents.

There have been numerous reports of elderly people in care homes rapidly deteriorating both mentally and physically as a result of being isolated since March. 

Mr Hancock said he hoped to have testing for care home visitors in place for all care homes in England ‘by Christmas’, with the pilot currently taking place in 20 homes.

But he stressed the final decision on whether to allow visits would fall on the shoulders of individual care homes and local councils. 

During an appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme today, Mr Hancock listened as one man described how visits to his wife’s care home in Hampshire had been severely restricted, impacting on her dementia.  

Michael Blackstad told how coronavirus guidelines at his wife Trisha’s care home was making her situation a ‘nightmare’.

He said his wife’s Alzheimer’s had become ‘very far advanced’ but the only visitors she was allowed were care home staff dressed in personal protective equipment.

Mr Blackstad, who has Parkinson’s, said: ‘She was always a lively articulate person.

‘(Now) she stands, she fidgets, her head is bowed. She’s basically got this form of dementia which means she doesn’t like sitting down.

‘That makes it a nightmare being in a single room – it is like being stuck in a hotel room for three weeks without being able to go out. It’s just awful.’

Mr Blackstad said the care home was planning to put in a visiting facility that he described as being ‘rather like a prison’, with Perspex screens from ‘floor to ceiling’ and speakerphones, but only once there were no more Covid cases at the centre.

Responding to the interview, Mr Hancock described the situation as ‘heartbreaking’ and ‘really difficult’.

He added: ‘I know this from personal circumstances as well in terms of members of my own family … who are in the same sort of situation. It is very difficult.

‘The problem is that we know when this virus gets into care homes, we know that people in care homes are particularly vulnerable to it and it runs rife, and so we both need to protect people from the virus but also do that in as a humane a way as possible, and we know the impact on people’s health, let alone everything else, on not being able to see visitors.’ 

More than 20,000 care home residents died from Covid-19 during the first wave of the pandemic, in part because asymptomatic workers were allowed to freely move between care homes without being tested for the disease.

Experts say homes employing bank staff, who work at more than one facility, were more at risk from the coronavirus because it provided an opportunity for the disease to jump from an infected home into others.

But they are now required to ask staff to sign ‘exclusive’ contracts barring them from working in more than one home. 

Care home operators have been critical about the amount of support they have received from the Government.  

Lakshmy Pengelly, who owns Ashley Court Care home in Llanelli said her local authority had not issued guidelines on visits despite Wales coming out of lockdown two weeks ago. 

‘We were asked to wait for our local authority to issue guidelines on visitation,’ she told MailOnline. ‘To this day, they haven’t issued any guidelines. We have sent e mails trying to ask when we can open for visits but out e mails go ignored. 

‘In the meantime, our families and clients are struggling without these visits. Some people believe it’s the care homes decision to stop visits, however we are also pushing the local authority who seem to have no urgency in making a decision on this.’  

Official figures last week showed more than 5,000 dementia patients died needlessly during lockdown – most of them in care homes.

Between March 7 and May 1, when blanket visiting bans were in place, the toll was 52 per cent higher than normal.

Over the past five years an average of 10,345 Britons died from dementia in the same eight-week period, according to the Office for National Statistics.

But this year the figure hit 15,749 – meaning there were 5,404 excess and potentially avoidable deaths.

The fatalities were not related to Covid – and another 13,840 dementia sufferers died from the virus from March to June. Up to 80 per cent of these 5,000 excess dementia deaths were in care homes.

Experts believe the prolonged social isolation in lockdown is likely to have contributed.

Isolation has been shown to accelerate the progression of dementia – for many the best medicine is the chance to hold the hand of the person they love.

Ms Bow clinking glasses with her daughter during an event in 2016. Today she thanked the support of charity Care Campaign for the Vulnerable, which campaigns for safer care, and its founder Jayne Connery

Ms Bow clinking glasses with her daughter during an event in 2016. Today she thanked the support of charity Care Campaign for the Vulnerable, which campaigns for safer care, and its founder Jayne Connery

Ms Bow clinking glasses with her daughter during an event in 2016. Today she thanked the support of charity Care Campaign for the Vulnerable, which campaigns for safer care, and its founder Jayne Connery

Director of Aspen Hill Village (pictured) Dr Shahz Ahmed said: We operate an open door policy and the manager welcomes all residents and their families to raise concerns directly'

Director of Aspen Hill Village (pictured) Dr Shahz Ahmed said: We operate an open door policy and the manager welcomes all residents and their families to raise concerns directly'

Director of Aspen Hill Village (pictured) Dr Shahz Ahmed said: We operate an open door policy and the manager welcomes all residents and their families to raise concerns directly’

Meanwhile, Mr Hancock, who is due to host a Downing Street press conference later, said it was ‘too early’ to determine whether the lockdown measures in England would end after December 2.

Asked whether the lockdown would simply be ‘re-badged’ after the deadline, he said: ‘You tempt me, but it is too early to say I’m afraid.

‘We’ve seen in the last week that there is still a very high number of cases but we do absolutely want to come out of this national lockdown.

‘That is our goal, everybody has a part to play in making that happen of course, following the social distancing rules and isolating when you need to, which is the critical thing.’

He said one of the main goals now was to use the mass rapid testing rollout to find those who are asymptomatic with the virus.

It comes as the Prime Minister said he was feeling ‘great’ on his first working day in self-isolation after a 35-minute meeting with Tory MP Lee Anderson, who later tested positive for coronavirus.

In a video posted to Twitter the Prime Minister said: ‘Hi folks, the good news is that NHS Test and Trace is working ever-more efficiently, but the bad news is that they’ve pinged me and I’ve got to self isolate because someone I was in contact with a few days ago has developed Covid.

‘It doesn’t matter that we were all doing social distancing, it doesn’t matter that I’m fit as a butcher’s dog, feel great – so many people do in my circumstances.

‘And actually it doesn’t matter that I’ve had the disease and I’m bursting with antibodies.

‘We’ve got to interrupt the spread of the disease and one of the ways we can do that now is by self isolating for 14 days when contacted by Test and Trace.’  

The Government also announced a further 213 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday - up 9.8 per cent from from last Monday's figure of 194

The Government also announced a further 213 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday - up 9.8 per cent from from last Monday's figure of 194

The Government also announced a further 213 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday – up 9.8 per cent from from last Monday’s figure of 194 

In another sign lockdown measures are working, new Covid case numbers were recorded at 21,363 in the UK. The figure is new lab-confirmed cases recorded as of 9am yesterday

In another sign lockdown measures are working, new Covid case numbers were recorded at 21,363 in the UK. The figure is new lab-confirmed cases recorded as of 9am yesterday

In another sign lockdown measures are working, new Covid case numbers were recorded at 21,363 in the UK. The figure is new lab-confirmed cases recorded as of 9am yesterday

We want to show our love: These heartbreaking stories of families torn apart by Covid-19 rules that will make you weep – as told by their despairing relatives

By Eleanor Hayward for the Daily Mail  

When a blanket ban on care home visits was imposed in March as the pandemic took hold of the country, elderly residents were dealt the shock of loved-ones suddenly vanishing from their lives.

Eight months on, they are still forbidden from holding hands with their husbands and wives or hugging their sons and daughters.

The most they can hope for is the chance to wave at family through a window or prison-style screen. Some families are still being denied any visits at all.

Eddie McEwan (pictured with his wife, Rose), 85, served Britain all his working life, spending 22 years in the Royal Air Force and another decade in the fire service

Eddie McEwan (pictured with his wife, Rose), 85, served Britain all his working life, spending 22 years in the Royal Air Force and another decade in the fire service

Eddie McEwan (pictured with his wife, Rose), 85, served Britain all his working life, spending 22 years in the Royal Air Force and another decade in the fire service

Retired nurse tells of humiliating arrest for taking her dementia-stricken mother, 97, out of care home

A retired nurse found herself handcuffed in the back of the police car, simply for trying to take her mother from a care home.

Ylenia Angeli and her daughter, former Coronation Street actress Leandra Ashton, 42, were horrified to see the condition of Tina Thornborough, 97, when they attended Northgate Care Home, Market Weighton, East Yorks, on November 3.  

Mrs Angeli pushed past a member of staff whilst still holding a bunch of roses she had brought for the visit and wheeled her mum outside.

Ylenia Angeli and her daughter, former Coronation Street actress Leandra Ashton, 42, were horrified to see the condition of Tina Thornborough, 97, when they attended Northgate Care Home, Market Weighton, East Yorks, earlier this month

Ylenia Angeli and her daughter, former Coronation Street actress Leandra Ashton, 42, were horrified to see the condition of Tina Thornborough, 97, when they attended Northgate Care Home, Market Weighton, East Yorks, earlier this month

Ylenia Angeli and her daughter, former Coronation Street actress Leandra Ashton, 42, were horrified to see the condition of Tina Thornborough, 97, when they attended Northgate Care Home, Market Weighton, East Yorks, earlier this month 

To her horror Humberside Police were called to the scene by the care home – who were responsible for her mother’s care under the UK’s power of attorney rules.

Though Mrs Angeli, 73, had power of attorney over her mother’s financial affairs, she did not over her care – which reverts to the state for people in care homes unless it has previously been granted to family or a close friend. 

The pair say they now face a battle to ‘free’ their relative from the home. 

Following the incident, in which Angeli was arrested on suspicion of assault, before later being de-arrested by police, she told MailOnline earlier this month: ‘I was shocked and wondering ‘how has it come to this?’

‘To prevent me from leaving with my own mother, who I wanted to give the loving care of her daughter, which she so needed, they handcuffed me. 

‘It was hard to believe that at the age of 73 I was sitting in handcuffs in the back of a police car, but I didn’t have time to consider my own position very much.’  

Leandra Ashton filmed officers as they arrested her mother, 73, before putting her dementia-hit grandmother (pictured) into the patrol car to be sent back to the facility

Leandra Ashton filmed officers as they arrested her mother, 73, before putting her dementia-hit grandmother (pictured) into the patrol car to be sent back to the facility

The incident involving Tina Thornborough (pictured) was recorded by Miss Ashton

The incident involving Tina Thornborough (pictured) was recorded by Miss Ashton

Ms Angeli was detained by police after forcing her way into the home and removing her mother, Tina Thornborough (pictured), who she had not hugged for nine months due to Covid

Speaking of the moment the police arrived, she said: ‘I had Mum in the car with me and was sitting with the engine running to keep us both warm.

‘The police officer came over and took the keys from my car which shocked me and made me angry. He had already blocked my car in and said he was going to arrest me.

‘I don’t think even at that point I believed it but he was very strict and no nonsense and suddenly I was in handcuffs.’ 

 

Residents suffered cruelly in the spring when infectious hospital patients were discharged into the system, allowing the virus to tear through homes – and costing thousands of lives. But since the first wave subsided, a second deadly tragedy has been slowly unfolding.

While the rest of us regained some normality – dining out at restaurants, reuniting with friends, going on holiday – elderly residents remained cut off from the outside world.

They say they feel incarcerated, like zoo animals who can only be stared at through a protective barrier.

Many have simply given up on life, with non-Covid deaths soaring in care homes, where more than 410,000 people live. Thousands are feared to have died from conditions other than Covid-19, brought on by inadequate medical care and a lack of social contact.

Isolation is known to speed up the progression of dementia, leading to an extra 5,000 deaths during lockdown.

Separate research shows that many of those living in care homes stopped eating or drinking at some point since the pandemic began, and care home managers have reported watching residents growing increasingly distressed.

While the crisis has been deepening, tens of thousands of families have started calling for relatives of care home residents to be granted key worker status, allowing them regular priority testing that would make in-person visits safe.

The situation is heartbreaking for family members, who worry that they will never see their mothers and fathers alive again, their final months spent in aching loneliness rather than surrounded by love.

Husbands and wives of people with dementia worry that when they are finally reunited, their partner will no longer recognise them — their lifelong memories extinguished by the months spent apart. On these pages we share some of their stories. 

Eddie McEwan served Britain all his working life, spending 22 years in the Royal Air Force and another decade in the fire service.

But now the 85-year-old, who struggles to speak or communicate following a stroke, has been made to feel like a prisoner.

His daughter Mhairi lives just five minutes away from his care home in south-west London, but was unable to see him for months.

She said: ‘I went from seeing him every week and taking him for lunch and walks, to not being able to communicate at all.

‘We couldn’t do Zoom calls because he can’t speak or talk on the phone. He has been so isolated, and it means his condition has deteriorated. My dad is an incredibly strong, brave and determined gentleman. But he is not allowed fresh air, he is not allowed to have a life.

‘It is absolutely heartbreaking. People with dementia or other disabilities need to see and touch their family to feel loved. That is being denied to them. The visiting rules are utterly cruel and disproportionate.

‘This is all being done in the name of safety but I don’t have Covid, he doesn’t have Covid and the care home doesn’t have Covid.’

Miss McEwan, 59, wasn’t allowed to see her father at all until July, when socially distant outdoor meetings were allowed. Since London was placed under Tier 2 restrictions from October, only window visits have been permitted.

She said: ‘I dream of being able to take him out for a walk in the park in his wheelchair, or take him to the pub for a pint when they open again. The chance to have Christmas dinner with him would be so special. He just needs a cuddle for Christmas.

‘Care homes are not supposed to be an asylum or a prison. This generation that is being betrayed at the end of their lives. Most of them do not have much time left, and are being robbed of time to spend with their families.

‘The costs of tests for family members would be a drop in the ocean. The Government cannot afford to wait any longer.’ 

During his long career as a vicar, Les Collinson supported many families through hard times.

Now as the 74-year-old battles vascular dementia, the cruel ban on visitors means there is no one there to support him.

His daughter Angela said: ‘Ever since March, all I have been able to do is wave at my dad through a window. The window was high up so you couldn’t even see him properly, and I’d leave in tears.

‘Once he put his hand out of the window to hold my hand but I had to explain that I’m not allowed to touch him. Prisoners have got more rights at the moment.’

Les Collinson (pictured with his daughter Angela), 74, battles vascular dementia and the cruel ban on visitors means there is no one there to support him

Les Collinson (pictured with his daughter Angela), 74, battles vascular dementia and the cruel ban on visitors means there is no one there to support him

Les Collinson (pictured with his daughter Angela), 74, battles vascular dementia and the cruel ban on visitors means there is no one there to support him

Deadly toll of care homes ban: Halting visits is linked to 5,000 EXTRA dementia deaths in nursing units, figures reveal 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock

Health Secretary Matt Hancock

Health Secretary Matt Hancock

More than 5,000 dementia patients died needlessly during lockdown – most of them in care homes, official figures show.

Between March 7 and May 1, when blanket visiting bans were in place, the toll was 52 per cent higher than normal.

Over the past five years an average of 10,345 Britons died from dementia in the same eight-week period, according to the Office for National Statistics.

But this year the figure hit 15,749 – meaning there were 5,404 excess and potentially avoidable deaths.

The fatalities were not related to Covid – and another 13,840 dementia sufferers died from the virus from March to June. Up to 80 per cent of these 5,000 excess dementia deaths were in care homes.

Experts believe the prolonged social isolation in lockdown is likely to have contributed.

Isolation has been shown to accelerate the progression of dementia – for many the best medicine is the chance to hold the hand of the person they love.

Julia Jones, of the dementia rights organisation John’s Campaign, said: ‘Because dementia is neurodegenerative, visits are essential to promote wellbeing and provide stimulation that helps to prevent their condition deteriorating.

‘By taking away their visits, you are damaging these people clinically. You are taking away their medicine. It is an essential part of their care, just as essential as food or drugs, and you wouldn’t take that away.’

The Mail has seen a major study – led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine – which found that many dementia sufferers have stopped eating or drinking at some point since the pandemic began.

The study said isolation had ‘enormous impacts on residents’ – 28 per cent of care home residents had reduced the amount they ate, often leading to weight loss and frailty. It also found that 84 per cent of site managers reported a low mood among their residents, with almost all saying this was due to lack of visitors.

Of the 411,000 care home residents in the UK, 70 per cent have dementia. Research by the Alzheimer’s Society shows that more than four-fifths of people with dementia have suffered a decline in memory, concentration and the ability to perform daily tasks during the pandemic.

Half reported increased memory loss and concentration problems. More than one in four said reading and writing were more difficult, while one in three said speaking and listening had become worse.

Overall, one in four of those who died from Covid-19 between March and June had dementia.

And more than 25,000 dementia patients died in March and April alone – twice the figure from previous years. Normally, the Office for National Statistics would expect 11,800 dementia patients to die over this two-month period, again based on the average figures for the past five years. Although many succumbed to the virus itself, thousands of others are feared to have died from conditions brought on by inadequate medical care and a lack of social contact.

Charities have been contacted by hundreds of relatives who say loved ones are going downhill.

Professor Alistair Burns, NHS England national clinical director for dementia and older people’s mental health, said: ‘The extraordinary events of this year have been challenging for older people and no one should feel ashamed, reluctant or worried about asking for help.’

Mr Collinson, from Darwen, Lancashire, has been in a care home since April last year when he suffered a stroke and developed vascular dementia.

Miss Collinson, 38, said: ‘People with dementia need that interaction with their loved-ones. I don’t understand why over summer I’ve been allowed to go on holiday and go out to pubs and restaurants, but I wasn’t allowed to hug my dad.

‘Testing seems like a simple solution to this, I would pay to get tested myself if it meant I could give him a hug. Even if I could just go inside and sit by his side for five minutes it would mean the world to me.’ 

Dave Stallard struggles to understand why his family don’t visit him every day like they used to.

The 79-year-old has severe dementia, and his wife Irene used to sit with him twice a day, regularly taking him on trips into the West Sussex countryside where they live.

But from March to July the couple, who have been married for more than 50 years, could not see each other at all. Now they are allowed only one half-hour visit every fortnight, sat two metres apart in a gazebo outside at his care home.

When Mrs Stallard wants to see her husband’s face at other times, she goes to his care home, peers over the railings and tells him she loves him.

Their daughter Miranda Gore-Brown, who used to visit her father in the care home at least twice a week, said the ‘inhumane’ situation cannot be allowed to continue.

Mrs Gore-Browne, a finalist on the first series of The Great British Bake off, said: ‘Every day that goes by without testing is a wasted day when people could be together. The lack of human contact is so cruel.

‘My mum should be given the same priority as a key worker and given routine testing so she can visit him. Rapid testing could transform the situation.

‘It is heartbreaking for my mum and has been so incredibly hard for her, thinking of all those hours where she would be able to sit chatting to him and holding his hand.

‘I’m really conscious that his time is running out. We have been lucky as he still knows who we are and his face lights up when we visit. Dad is really missing us and feels a sadness. He asks if we can visit more, and we have told him we want to be we can’t.’

Mrs Gore-Browne added: ‘The care home have been fantastic, they’ve done everything they can to help us visit and let us come and speak to them over the wall. But if we hadn’t been able to do that and look over the railings we wouldn’t have been able to see him for five months.’ 

Trevor Salomon usually cherishes spending Christmas day cooking up a turkey feast with his wife by his side as sous chef.

But this year, he faces the prospect of not being able to see her at all.

His wife Yvonne, 64, moved into a care home last year after developing dementia. Since lockdown was imposed, they have only been able to wave at each other through a window.

Mr Salomon, 68, said: ‘I haven’t been able to touch or hold my wife since the first week of March.

‘As difficult as that is, I take comfort in the fact that the care home staff are doing an amazing job looking after all the residents.

‘Window visits and video calls will get us through the next couple of weeks, but they’re no substitute for a Christmas hug with Yvonne.’

He added that he fears that unless he is allowed to see her in person soon, his wife of more than three decades will no longer be able to recognise him.

Mr Salomon said: ‘Coronavirus and lockdown changed Yvonne’s care home overnight. The familiar faces of family and friends are gone, and carers are behind masks and can’t touch or comfort the residents.

‘Yvonne has lost her sparkle, she’s in a world she doesn’t understand.

‘We’ve only got video calls to keep in touch, and Yvonne doesn’t always understand them. If lockdown continues, I’m really fearful my wife won’t be able to recognise me at the end of all this.’ 

Caroline Raven has been trapped in a ‘never-ending nightmare’ since lockdown made it impossible to visit her 91-year-old mother Margaret.

‘She is always telling me she wants to die now,’ Mrs Raven said. ‘For a daughter to hear her mother say that is horrific. I’m powerless.’ 

Trevor Salomon (pictured with his wife Yvonne), 68, is unable to see his wife in person

Trevor Salomon (pictured with his wife Yvonne), 68, is unable to see his wife in person

Trevor Salomon (pictured with his wife Yvonne), 68, is unable to see his wife in person 

Margaret has dementia and has been living at a care home in Bristol for nearly five years. Visits were banned completely in March but a few weeks later, family members were allowed to wave at residents through a window. Now they can see each other indoors but only through screens.

Mrs Raven, 59, said: ‘The care home have done everything possible but Perspex screens are not a substitute for seeing someone in person. Mum finds the visits very distressing, she doesn’t understand why she can only see me through a screen and often just dissolves into tears.

‘She says that unless she can hug me or kiss me, she just wants to go back to her room and lie in bed, hoping her time comes. She says she has had enough. It is no life for anyone. It is barbaric.

‘Mum doesn’t understand why things are closed or that there’s a virus. She just thinks I’ve stopped going to see her.

‘She has always been fun-loving, feisty and independent, but now she is lost and defeated.’

Mrs Raven added: ‘Being able to sit with mum indoors would mean everything to me. I would love to spend Christmas Day with her, take her some presents and have a sherry. If the Government gave us the ability to properly visit our family, it would be the best Christmas present ever.’ 

Margaret Raven (pictured with her daughter Caroline), 91, is now telling her daughter 'she wants to die'

Margaret Raven (pictured with her daughter Caroline), 91, is now telling her daughter 'she wants to die'

Margaret Raven (pictured with her daughter Caroline), 91, is now telling her daughter ‘she wants to die’