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Mother ‘powerless’ to help daughter in care home during Covid, inquiry told

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The witness told the inquiry she felt ‘powerless’ to help her daughter during the pandemic (PA)

A mother has told an inquiry her daughter felt she “lost her family” due to restrictions in care homes during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Verona Gibson, a member of Care Home Relatives Scotland, told the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry on Tuesday her daughter’s physical and mental health declined.

Her daughter, 39, who has not been named, uses a wheelchair and has learning difficulties.

Ms Gibson said she felt “powerless” to help her daughter, who she said also suffers from “significant anxiety” and “mental health challenges”.

Her daughter, who has lived in care since 2009, stopped talking about her future during lockdown and has not done so since, Ms Gibson said.

She said a key factor in the decline of her daughter’s health was not being able to see her family – they were not able to see each other face-to-face until August 2020.

Her daughter eventually began video-calling her around five or six times a day in distress.

Ms Gibson said: “I would always speak to her every day, but this was on another level of phone calling.

“I obviously was compelled to speak to her, I was trying to keep her spirits up and keep her going.

I feel like I'm down on my knees and it's destroying my life, and I feel like I'm getting nowhere, and it's making me feel unwell and I'm fed up because I feel stuck and it's getting too much now
Care home resident during pandemic

“I’m struggling to put into words how upsetting those calls could be and how difficult they were for both my daughter and myself.”

The panel asked Ms Gibson what changes in physical health her daughter experienced as a result of the restrictions on care homes.

Ms Gibson replied: “Of course, it’s difficult to see somebody properly through an iPad, but she was very tired, very black-eyed, her pallor wasn’t great.

“I could see that she was putting on weight and that’s a concern for me because anyone in a wheelchair needs to mobilise to transfer, and the heavier you are the harder that task becomes, so those were the sorts of things that were of concern to me.”

Ms Gibson went on to criticise the “one size fits all” approach to Covid rules in care homes, questioning why care home staff were allowed to return to their homes after work but her daughter, who is not considered high-risk, was not allowed to see her family in person.

Her daughter submitted a number of recorded statements expressing her distress at not being able to leave the care home or see her family.

One statement, read by Ms Gibson before the inquiry, said: “I feel like I’m down on my knees and it’s destroying my life, and I feel like I’m getting nowhere, and it’s making me feel unwell and I’m fed up because I feel stuck and it’s getting too much now.

“It feels like I’m getting nowhere by asking my mum questions when my mum can’t give me the answers I want to hear because my mum has got no answer to give me.”

A second statement said: “It feels like I’m a prisoner, and not able to do things like go out shopping with my mum.

“It’s hard to keep it together, and I’m not able to get cuddles from my family.

“I feel like I’ve lost my family. I would like to do something about it. I would like to tell somebody how I’m feeling; somebody in the government.

“I feel angry and fed up.”

Ms Gibson’s daughter is due to give evidence before the inquiry next week.

As the inquiry entered into the afternoon session, the panel heard evidence from fellow Care Home Relatives Scotland members Morven Palmer and Jane Cooper.

Ms Palmer found herself in a similar position to Ms Gibson, who has a daughter with additional support needs who is living in a care home.

Her daughter, 23, remained unnamed and is non-verbal, visually impaired and has epilepsy.

Ms Palmer said her daughter’s seizures can be brought on by overstimulation and told the panel that being isolated for so long has had a “knock-on effect” on when she has fits.

She said: “We’ve had to start again in many ways. We now find that if you take her out on a simple car journey, for lunch or a walk, it can be overstimulating for her and she will have seizures.”

Ms Cooper had a sister who lived in a care home throughout the duration of lockdown before she died in March 2021, around a year since the first lockdown began.

She says many of her relatives were unable to attend her sister’s funeral as a result of restrictions and even fewer relatives were permitted into the care home where her sister spent her final moments before she passed.

The inquiry, before Lord Brailsford, continues.

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