Care home families not informed of ‘do not attempt CPR’ notices, inquiry told

Many families were not told relatives in care homes would not receive CPR in the event of a cardiac arrest, an inquiry has heard.

Sandra Ford (pictured), a GP and member of Care Home Relatives Scotland, told the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry on Thursday that care home residents are often issued with a DNA (do not attempt) CPR notice, a common practice as frail people are “highly unlikely” to survive it.

She said this is “fully explained” to families when a loved one moves into a care home, but added this was often not the case during the pandemic.

Her father, who had dementia, died during the pandemic while in a care home, and Ms Ford said his condition worsened due to being isolated.

She said: “Dementia in patients was accelerated due to the isolation and I saw this first-hand with my dad and other residents who I was visiting.

“Residents were lost and unsettled, the atmosphere was bleak and desolate.

“Residents were barrier-nursed in rooms with an infection control station outside.

“Because of Covid, and the neglect of family involvement, very often DNA CPR conversations were not taking place with the family and they were shocked to find out they had been put in place.”

She told how she previously saw her father at least once a week prior to the pandemic, and it then decreased to two 30-minute essential visits during Covid.

Eventually the visits were brought to a stop, which she believes worsened her father’s condition.

She said: “With family around him his whole life, and then all of a sudden it was absent, he must have felt terribly abandoned and I’m sure that must have caused things to deteriorate for him hugely.”

Her father died on December 28, 2021.

The inquiry then heard from Marian Reynolds, who lost her mother and ex-husband, the father of her children, within a few days of each other during Covid.

Her aunt, who turned 92 in April 2020 near the beginning of the pandemic, was also cut off from her family while living in a care home in Scotland.

Ms Reynolds told the panel her aunt contracted Covid while in her care home and was quarantined, but she is still alive today.

Ms Reynolds, a sheltered housing manager, lamented the excessive rules and regulations in care homes during the pandemic which prevented her aunt from seeing her family.

She asked the inquiry: “My place of work is not covered by the Care Commission. It’s very similar to care homes with common rooms and corridors.

“Where we have flats, they have rooms. People would come in and out and we would manage it quickly and effectively.

“We would think outside the box and develop two-metre distancing, one-way systems, passing places, implemented barriers across doors.

“My residents were not micromanaged and things became possible. Why couldn’t this have been done in care homes?”

Later, the inquiry heard a pensioner spent a total of three months in solitary confinement due to “barbaric” Covid guidance.

Sheila Hall, also a member of Care Home Relatives Scotland, said her elderly mother Alice was “angry and bewildered” by the regulations, and spent a cumulative total of three months in solitary confinement after returning to her care home following hospital visits.

In November 2021, Alice Hall was admitted to hospital and her daughter said she had to “clamber over mud” in order to see her from a window.

Ms Hall said: “She was not afraid of Covid or dying but she was afraid of being alone.”

Her mother died on February 5, 2023.

Before her death, Alice Hall wrote a statement for the inquiry, which was read by her daughter.

The statement said: “I made the decision to take up residence in a care home because of increasing frailty. Life worked well, we went to restaurants, we went to concerts, I lived a fulfilling life.

“We have now reached March 2022 and unlike everyone else in the community, my life is still ruled by regulations and constant lockdowns.

“I have had three vaccines, I have had Covid, I have truly had enough. My daughter had always been my main carer, this should have continued. Our main carers were locked out.

“We should not be locked away like dusty antiques. We still have our lives to lead.”

Sheila Hall said she was angry public health officials conflated guidance for care homes and prisons in February.

She added: “I think it’s disrespectful and hurtful. To my mind the care home was regarded just as an institution. To put it the same as a prison was unforgivable.”

The inquiry, before Lord Brailsford in Edinburgh, continues.

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