Column: Our loved ones in care are still stuck deep in lockdown

Elderly in care homes still only get one visit once a week, and for 30 minutes - outdoorsElderly in care homes still only get one visit once a week, and for 30 minutes - outdoors
Elderly in care homes still only get one visit once a week, and for 30 minutes - outdoors
One visit, once a week for 30 minutes – no-one else would tolerate that

We are judged as a society by how we treat our elders.

The acid test of our national quality was defined by Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, almost a century ago. Our political leaders - all of them - have failed to uphold that basic condition of office.

The notion that we wrapped our care homes in a protective embrace is laughable. Five months on, the real pain – the personal, deeply human cost – is distressingly evident.

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While we stroll into the pub for a pint, eat out, shop, and whinge because we have to wear a face mask in Sainsbury, our most vulnerable, elderly relatives remain in a total lockdown which no-one else in society would have tolerated.

They are still only allowed one visit per week by one person for 30 minutes, and it must take place outdoors. For pity’s sake, this is Scotland in August where you can get four seasons in one day. The rain is lashing down as I write, and yet, we expect frail people in their 80s and 90s to endure the cold seeping into their bones if they want to see a family member.

Last week, came the first change. Elderly folk in care can now have up to three visitors at one time, but from no more than two households, and they still must meet outdoors.

Next week - August 24 - care homes have to submit their plans on how they will handle visits indoors.

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So we’re talking September, at least, before the doors re-open. Six long, unbelievably difficult months of separation.

Why were these plans not ordered two months ago, ready for instant action?

We were able to build nightingale hospitals from scratch. Money was not an issue, but speed was - so they were built almost overnight, and then never, ever used.

Why the hell are we not taking that same dynamic, urgent approach to care homes?

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I get the big picture - saving lives etc etc - but where is the leadership?

Why is there no Care Homes Czar with a remit to do whatever it takes to get the doors open, but, above all, to listen to the families locked out?

Why are we not mobilising an army of helpers to design, create and install/convert whatever temporary facilities are needed at every single care home up and down the land to let folk sit in some degree of warmth, comfort, and, above all, dignity?

If this was left to Nick Knowles, his DIY SOS team would have had half the country’s homes sorted by now.

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But, speed and agile thinking are alien concepts to political leaders and the officials who surround them. They just don’t get it.

And, the one thing our old folk in care simply don’t have is time.

Since March, we have denied them the six days, 23 hours and 30 minutes that lapse between between every single visit. These precious moments can never be restored.

My stepdad turns 90 next week. A landmark birthday for a lovely, special man. Just three people from two households will get to spend 30 minutes with him. I hope to God it’s a gloriously sunny day.

> The views expressed are those of the columnist and not the newspaper