Since the Covid virus ripped through care homes, killing so many fragile older people, draconian rules have been imposed forbidding families from meeting the residents, in case they bring the infection in with them.
The emotional impact has been agonising.
This was exemplified by the case of Sarah who sent me desperate messages from a group of carers whose loved ones have dementia and are in care homes.
From her experience Sarah wrote to tell me people, including her father, are dying of heartbreak.
“My father is 92 and lives with me,” Sarah told me. “My mother was the love of his life. When she developed dementia and had to be cared for in a local home, Dad visited her every day.
“He’d go at lunchtime, and stay until the night staff arrived, and he kissed her goodnight.”
Since the pandemic, he has not been allowed to see her, hold her, touch her, even though touch is now the only communication she responds to.
He has tried to use a tablet to speak to her, but her sight is failing, and each time he spoke, pouring his heart out to her, trying to make her understand he still loves her, “Darling, it’s me”, she looked at the carer next to her, confused, unable to recognise him.
The effect on him has been devastating.
He told Sarah: “I don’t want to live any more. I have nothing to live for.”
Sarah said: “Seeing him in tears I believe he is having a mental breakdown. He wants to be with his wife. The fact he can’t is killing him.”
These are the deaths caused by the virus which you won’t find in the nightly statistics because these are not people who have been infected.
This is the emotional damage to the residents of care homes and their families, caused by fear.
The fear in government, the fear in health authorities and care home managers, all terrified that our recent history may repeat itself.
What is the answer?
Test, test, test.
I know from care home staff how concerned they are that they are not yet being tested regularly.
And when they are, it can take more than a week to get results back.
So, Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care making that system work properly is stage one.
Next, please create guidelines which enable care homes to nominate one member of a family to be regarded as part of a resident’s bubble, to be allowed the same access as a carer.
If it’s worth preserving lives, surely it’s worth preserving the love that makes life worthwhile.
*Names have been changed.