Husband "grateful" to hold his wife’s hand again at Bedford care home - but says lessons must be learned by Government

"Care homes need to be better supported to make individual assessments"

Friday, 19th March 2021, 4:42 pm

A husband has spoken of his joy at holding his wife’s hand again but says lessons must be learned to support people affected by dementia.

Gil Berrett, 85, said his spirits were lifted when he visited his wife Maureen, 89, in her care home - Anjulita Court, in Bedford. The couple had been without physical contact since she moved to the home in November last year – a time Gil says has been terribly lonely.

The home still has restrictions in place, with Gil, from Woburn Sands, only able to book to see his wife of 62 years once a week for a strict 30 minutes with contact limited to holding hands.

Gil and Maureen Berrett

He said: “I have to be grateful for what it is right now but I don’t necessarily agree with it. It is far better than seeing Maureen behind a screen, that wasn’t ideal and we just both ended up distressed after a visit.

“We’ve both had our Covid vaccines now and I wear full personal protective equipment so I can’t see what difference a 30-minute visit or several hours would make. Care homes need to be better supported to make individual assessments.

"I feel Government’s widespread approach to restrictions on care homes has been far too strict which has had such a damaging impact.”

Gil is backing a coalition of dementia organisations including Alzheimer’s Society, Dementia UK, John’s Campaign and TIDE (together in dementia everyday), who have come together to say ‘never again’ will those affected face such hardship and loss. They are calling for:

> A Recovery Plan with the needs of people affected by dementia at their heart

> Meaningful – close contact, indoor – visits to be the default position

> An end to blanket bans on care home visits where there is no active outbreak

> A recognition that family carers are integral to the care system

> Family carers to register their carer status with GP surgeries to ensure they get vaccination priority, and call on NHS England to ensure all surgeries enable this

> Universal social care, free at point of use, like the NHS, like education – and providing quality care for every person with dementia who needs it

An investigation by Alzheimer’s Society has shown the pandemic’s toll goes even further than deaths from the virus – of which people with dementia are among more than 34,000 to have died in England and Wales from Covid-19.

There are an estimated 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, including more than 5,500 in Bedfordshire.

Tina Kierman, Alzheimer’s Society’s area manager for Bedfordshire, said: “We are pleased to hear that Gil has been able to hold his wife's hand again after a painfully long wait.

"Alzheimer’s Society has campaigned for a long time to ensure family carers are recognised as essential to the care of people with dementia.

“Carers have been buckling under the strain while people with dementia have been left feeling abandoned. We urge the Government to support people affected by dementia whose lives have been upended, putting recovery plans in place, but also making the legacy of Covid-19 a social care system that cares for the most vulnerable when they need it.”