A Tale of Cruelty and Despair

The way dementia patients in care homes have been treated during this pandemic “should make us sick with shame and pity”.

Afflicted by an illness that attacks their memory and sense of self, they draw special comfort from the presence of loved ones. Yet in the name of infection control, the Government has seen to it that this vital human link has been denied them. No longer visited, they feel confused; abandoned. But it’s not the fault of the care homes: it’s the grotesquely inflexible official guidelines, which prohibit those who run the homes from devising sensible precautions while still acting humanely towards those in their charge.

That’s why John’s Campaign, a not-for-profit movement aimed at getting the Government to reform these cruel rules, is so worthy of support. One of its main concerns is to ensure that family carers are no longer seen as “visitors”, but instead treated as a crucial part of the clinical team needing the same protection, testing and status as other key workers. The Government must be made to bring this “avoidable suffering” to an end.
(Nicci Gerrard, The Observer and The Week, 19 September).

My take: Yes, Epicurus would have approved, in principle. But the homes seem to be in a no-win situation. I agree – it would help enormously if relatives could help and support the afflicted, who feel abandoned. In the words of a person I know, now in a care home, “They have imprisoned me”.

But you can be tested and cleared one day and contract covid 19 the next. We don’t yet have “instant” tests. So having relatives popping in and out could introduce the virus into the home, which is then accused of a failure to care and in consequence be responsible for multiple deaths. “John’s Campaign” means well, but unless family careers move in semi-permanently, their idea is borderline irresponsible. I think Epicurus would have advocated getting the testing very much better and quicker in order to promote peace of mind for everyone.

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