Nicola Sturgeon ‘heart sorry’ for care home residents unable to see their families

Nicola Sturgeon has said she is “heart sorry” for care home residents who have not been able to see their families for months, following an emotional plea from a 104-year-old woman.

Mary Fowler said the lack of contact with her family is “cutting me to bits”.

In a video message shared by the Care Home Residents Scotland group, she pleaded for help and said: “I have to see my family.”

She has so far only been able to have brief window visits from one of her children.

At the daily coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said testing for care home visitors will be a “priority” in her forthcoming review but she stressed there is no easy solution.

Mrs Fowler (pictured), who is a resident at a Fife care home, said she is being “well taken care of” but is desperate to see her family again.

She said: “This is my right. Please help. It’s cutting me to bits.

“I must see my kids, time’s getting on for me. I must see my children and make things like they used to be. Please help me.”

Care Home Relatives Scotland said many residents are being restricted to short patio or window visits, despite new rules announced recently by the Health Secretary.

Organiser Cathie Russell told the PA news agency: “It doesn’t seem to have made much difference.

“Some care home groups say they’re not moving to the new guidance.”

She called on care home visitors to be granted “essential caregiver” status, with access to rapid testing and infection control training.

Asked about Mrs Fowler’s message at the coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said she had not yet seen the video but decisions on care home visiting had been “heartbreakingly difficult”.

She said: “To Mary, I’m heart sorry for the position you’re in and the position your family’s in.

“That’s replicated many, many, many times over across the country. But we have to keep people in care homes as safe as possible

“The new guidance is not a panacea and it could never be in the current context.

“But it is about trying to get back to some sort of normality for people for whom visits are not just visits, they are a key part of their quality of life and care.

“Testing of designated visitors going into care homes, those who regularly go, is one of the priorities of the extension of testing into other asymptomatic groups.”

Chief nursing officer Fiona McQueen said she does not want to see a return of the “blunt instrument” at the beginning of the pandemic when all care home visiting was restricted, as this had an impact on residents’ wellbeing.

She told the briefing: “Just being with them, and being with them for an extended period of time, helps them.

“We know that that is now as essential as protecting people from Covid-19.

“Care home owners are working tirelessly to put the right systems in place to protect the residents and we are working hard.

“We know that testing is part of the solution, part of that equation that balances the life of people so they don’t have Covid with that psychological and emotional wellbeing that we’re seeing as of equal value.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Care Home Residents Scotland / PA Wire.