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Family forced to see dying gran, 86, through bedroom window

PUBLISHED: 16:24 07 September 2020 | UPDATED: 08:31 08 September 2020

Donna Cattermole with her son Charlie have shared the heartbreak facing her family due to coronavirus restrictions on care homes. Picture: Donna Cattermole

Donna Cattermole with her son Charlie have shared the heartbreak facing her family due to coronavirus restrictions on care homes. Picture: Donna Cattermole

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An 86-year-old woman who is dying is being forced to make an impossible choice - which one of her daughters can be at her bedside during her final breaths.

The health secretary appeared on LBC Radio and discussed the impact on care homes. Picture: LBCThe health secretary appeared on LBC Radio and discussed the impact on care homes. Picture: LBC

The woman has also spent the last six months only able to see her children and grandchildren through her bedroom window.

It is a devastating time for the lady, who we are not naming and who has been in a Norwich care home throughout lockdown, receiving palliative care for non-alcoholic liver disease.

It is also taking its toll on her family.

Daughter Donna Cattermole, from Hellesdon, has spent the last six months alongside her sisters Beverly and April and son Charlie only being able to see her mum through her window.

Healthwatch Norfolk is asking for families of those who have been living in a care home during the pandemic to give their thoughts in a new survey. Picture: Healthwatch NorfolkHealthwatch Norfolk is asking for families of those who have been living in a care home during the pandemic to give their thoughts in a new survey. Picture: Healthwatch Norfolk

And the family have been told only one person will be allowed to be by their mum’s side physically when she dies - but not until her “last breaths”.

Mrs Cattermole said the last time she was in a room with her mum was on March 15, and said the last six months had been the most “horrendous time” for the family.

The 53-year-old said: “For me, I’m feeling that she has gone. I’m grieving really, I’m not getting any indication this is going to change and it will only be one of us.

“When they are so poorly, it’s your duty to be there. It’s so devastating I cannot do anything. I do not see any light at the end of the tunnel. I feel like I’m grieving and I cannot see me going in and seeing her.

“We’re talking about who it is going to be, that’s hard for my mum to decide who that is going to be.

“I do not think I will see her again.”

The family have said they would be happy to wear full personal protective equipment and have their temperatures checked to be able to be with their mum for just 15 minutes once a week.

Due to being bedridden, the family’s contact has been through standing at her bedroom window, video or phone calls, as the 86-year-old is to frail to be put in a wheelchair, and her bed too wide to be brought outside for a garden visit.

Mrs Cattermole said: “When I went two weeks ago, she was in so much pain, crying and sobbing and I’m outside of the window. I should be in there. One of the laundry workers did sit with her to make sure she was alright.

“It feels against human rights. The government needs to help the care homes.

“The care homes have been terribly neglected, they are frightened to have everyone in after what happened in the beginning because they were terribly neglected.”

Mrs Cattermole added: “The whole situation, they have to start considering the residents and the family. Six months down the line, are we ever going to see our parents again?”

The mother-of-one praised the team at the care home for all their work for keeping her mum and other residents safe, often comforting her mum when she was upset.

Mrs Cattermole said: “I feel so sorry for the carers - we would help them. I would go and make mum a cup of tea, cut up her lunch, do her hair and I cannot do anything for her. They are rushed off their feet and they feel so sorry for us.

“Mum could go out in a wheelchair but she is getting very weak and frail, otherwise we could sit outside with a mask but we cannot do that.

“Bedridden people are being left behind and it just feels so cruel.

“It’s affecting her and the families’ mental health as it’s heartbreaking watching her crying at the window. I know we aren’t the only ones who are going through this awful time.”

Before the pandemic, she and her sisters Beverly and April were visiting their mum once a week or fortnight.

In July, the government issued guidelines on how visits could be resumed, with advice including limiting residents to a “single constant visitor” where possible.

The area’s director of public health and council would then outline how visits can take place.

On Monday, health secretary Matt Hancock told LBC he had been “reluctant” to impose restrictions on visiting nursing homes but it was necessary due to the spread of coronavirus.

But when asked on LBC why elderly people were being kept like “prisoners”, he said the rules had changed.

Mr Hancock added: “The challenge to keep people safe in nursing homes has been a really significant one. We made a change to the rule around visitors and allowing visitors about six weeks ago and gave the decision-making to the local area and to the homes themselves.

“Before that we had put in place restrictions on visitors which I was reluctant to do but was necessary when there was a lot of virus about.”


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