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LIVING IN FEAR: Deadly care home crisis hits residents and staff

CARE homes have found themselves at the epicentre of the UK’s Covid-19 crisis — and it is something that Eldonian House knows all too well.

Tragically, there have been six deaths linked to coronavirus in the Vauxhall Road residential home, and one senior staff member is currently in self-isolation.

For staff members, the hardships they are facing are unprecedented.

“Staff morale is at an all-time low,” says Vicky Feeney, a care worker at Eldonian House.

“All staff are grieving for the loss of residents – and also for their families, who are unable to be there for their dying loved ones.

“They feel those restrictions are disrespectful to the departed.”

A quarter of all confirmed Covid-19 deaths in Britain have occurred in care homes – and are now running at one-and-a-half times higher than at the start of the outbreak in March.

Lack of testing in care homes is a major problem – and that is thought to be a driving factor in the rising number of deaths.

Staff members at Eldonian House HAVE now been tested, – but Vicky stresses that is not enough, and that testing must happen regularly to avoid further transmission.

“You can’t be sure who is positive and who’s not,” she told us.

“We recently were due to get five new arrivals. Two were positive, and didn’t come, but three did. But can say that they aren’t going to catch the virus from someone inside?

“The testing facility that is available is a joke.

“At first, when they announced key workers could be tested, I was given a slot – but I had to find my own driver. Unfortunately, we don’t have access to a vehicle in my household at the moment, so it was really frustrating.”

While staff members like Vicky continue the fight on the frontline, families of residents in Eldonian House face an agonising wait.

“Having someone with dementia in your family is hard at the best of times,” says Netti Carroll.

She says that putting her grandad into a care home was one of the hardest decisions her family has ever had to make. But he couldn’t find anywhere better to live – until coronavirus changed everything.

“Our saving grace was that we could visit him whenever we wanted, every single day, and we did,” says Netti. “Then Corona Virus hit – and our whole world changed.

“The past nine weeks have been the hardest, emotionally and mentally. The threat of him contracting this disease is constantly on our minds and is a huge worry.

“The main issue has been – and still is – not seeing him and him not seeing us.”

Netti says her “funny, social” grandad used to see a visitor from the family every day after moving to Eldonian House. But she now fears that he may forget them all.

“My biggest concern is that he would forget us – and that he would think we had abandoned him.

“He wouldn’t remember day by day why we are not there . He’d just know we’re not there.”

Netti and her family also made the tough decision not to telephone him, because they fear that doing so would upset him. But she adds that staff members, like Vicky, have been “amazing” despite the challenging conditions and they regularly assure her with updates.

“They tell us the truth, which is so very important,” Netti said. She added that staff have become like family.

“We were told when a resident tested positive and also, sadly, when some residents passed away.

“But the thing that really terrifies me is knowing that if my grandad became ill we wouldn’t be able to see him or comfort him.

“The thought of him being without his family at a time like that fills me with dread. But at least I know he would not be alone and I know the staff there would make sure of that – disregarding the risk to themselves to ensure he isn’t alone.”

When residents were recently tested, Netti was delighted to learn her grandad’s result had come back negative — but she warns that the threat remains “very high”.

And she argues that the government’s treatment of care homes has been despicable.

“I do believe the way in which care homes, residents and staff, have been treated by our government is appalling,” she told Scottie Press.

“They have been left to fend for themselves and just get on with it – ultimately losing many lives in the process.”