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Home   /   Covid broke an Eastbournian family apart after over 60 years of marriage

“I thought he was going to die, and I was very worried.”

Before Covid-19 pandemic kickstarted a year ago, local Eastbourne-resident Christine King’s parents Ken and Marie were separated and placed on different care homes. In the next few months Eastbourne-born woman would be going through serious anxiety and uncertain times in fear of loss.

Christine’s ,60, parents had been married together for 62 years and in this situation, they couldn’t see each other for the first time.

Christine’s parents were separated from same care home they were placed in after her dad’s condition got worse.

Ken was suffering from physical difficulties and Marie had dementia.

“When my dad became very ill two years ago, he went back to hospital, and they said he can’t go back to same home as my mum was living in. That was quite distressing for us.”

“Before lockdown happened, my brother and I were able to take my mom to see my dad. After lockdown my mum wasn’t allowed to leave her care home and my dad wasn’t his.”

When the first national lockdown happened on March 2020, Christine’s family suffered more setbacks after Ken’s care home was shut down. He had to be moved to a new place, where relatives couldn’t be able to visit to see out the living conditions.

“It was very difficult to assess, he was getting good care. We were able to do a video call twice a week by Zoom. Nurses set up my dad’s one and carers set up my mum’s one.

“When she saw my dad on screen, she shouted at him and said: Ken, Ken wake up! He’s quite out of it so it’s kind of sad.”

At first Christine was willing to move her mum and dad together back in the same nursing home. The problem would have been the government guidelines, which would have left her mum isolated for two weeks in her room.

In some care homes guidelines were very strict and residents were shut down during lockdown inside their rooms. Christine’s mum was still able to socialize with the other residents at her home.

“With her dementia she likes to wander around and there’s no way they would have kept her in her own room.”

“Before second lockdown on November I was able to go see my dad and mum outside the care home. After that it wasn’t possible anymore”.

From fear of death towards the new hope

When new year 2021 turned, national lockdown was still on, and coronavirus-outbreaks hit hard on care homes all over East Sussex. At worst the weekly death toll in January was 202 weekly resident deaths.

In the same month the worst fear in the King family came true when Christine’s dad Ken caught Covid. If he would have died, the government guidelines would have restricted his wife to attend the funeral, because leaving the care home wasn’t allowed for residents.

Luck was on family’s side and Ken survived the virus.

“He was very ill. I was able to go see him once just in case he would die. I thought he was going to die, and I was very worried.

“If he would have died, my mum wouldn’t have been able to see him at all. If she would have done it, she would have been forced to isolate back at her home for two weeks.”

“I was very anxious then, but he has rallied around, and got a little bit better.”

Since government’s exit plan out of lockdown started on 8th March, restrictions all over the country have been easing up step by step. Thanks for the good progress of the vaccination program, care home residents are currently well protected from the virus.

According to governments statistics total of 9,9 million people have had their second dose of vaccine.

Mandy Hayes carer from an Eastbourne care home said:

“All of our residents have had the vaccination. All the staff has had the vaccination. We have no more fatalities anymore and nobody’s suffering.”

“Lockdown’s been now lifted a little bit, but we have to be very vigilant.”

Reunited with parents in person

Since the 12th of April Christine has finally been able to meet his parents in person after being separated for several months. The government now allows two nominated visitors for care home residents.

Being able to see her dad’s room and nursing home for the first time has been the biggest relief for her.

The nursing home allows visiting once a week for half an hour.

“I’ve been able to put some pictures up for him and talk to the staff as a human being of his background and his life.”

“Now one of my brothers can come with me and he can have two visitors. It’s difficult to move him see us, but they try to put him on a wheelchair and come downstairs to see us.”

“When we started visiting my dad, he was just sitting with his screen and couldn’t response to me. Now I can hold his hand and say: come on dad! And encourage him to talk.”

Her mum Marie Christine is seeing twice a week with her aunt, who’s the second nominated visitor.

Anxiety from lockdown is gone and she is reunited again with her parents in person.

“My aunt is mum’s sister and she’s been very desperate to see her.  My mum loves her very much so she’s a nominated person to visit her alongside of me. It’s very therapeutic for my aunt as well to my mum.”

“She’s always in her care home and the staff knows her very well.”

“Now instead of screens we can sit with her and have natural conversation with her. I can’t hug her, but I can least hold her hand.”

“My mum has come through a lot, and she has accepted her situation.”

Word count: 982 words

References (online)  [accessed on 18th April 2021]

Hayes, M (2021) GJ506 Portfolio Interview, Joni Ahokas, Eastbourne, 2021, 16th April

King, C (2021) GJ506 Portfolio Interview, Joni Ahokas, Eastbourne, 2021, 15th April

Local Government Association Covid-19 and Care Homes in East Sussex (online)  [accessed on 18th April 2021]

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