Cut off from family, they “gave up and died”

The “big scandal” of Covid was that some isolated care home residents “gave up and died” because they were unable to see loved ones during the pandemic, says Jeremy Richardson, the outgoing boss of a major care provider.

The pandemic shows how important family connection is. It even keeps us alive. Not just as children, but even in our last years.

At the Innovation in Care Conference in March 22, Jeremy Richardson explained how we had defined essential carers as the people who work in care homes only to exclude the people who are the loved ones of those who live in care homes.

I know for a fact that there were a number of people in our homes who gave up and died because they didn’t have social interaction. They gave up the will to live.

Jeremy Richardson, 2 March 22, Birmingham

Helen Wildore, director of the Relatives and Residents Association, backed him up. She said that Covid restrictions had cut short too many lives.

Care home residents – including vulnerable people and dementia patients – faced visiting restrictions for almost two years throughout the pandemic. Families repeatedly called for rules to change, so they could hug their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.

One example is this Scottish campaign. Another is pictured above: Julie Henshall hugging her elderly and dying mother, Gloria, after agonisingly long months kept apart. Her campaign led to Gloria’s Law. Gloria died during 2021.

A life well led

There are no care homes in those countries where families care at home for their own. Elsewhere, it’s hard to protect vulnerable residents from real dangers from both the pandemic virus as well as from the isolation from loved ones. We know what to do next time:

Ultimately, life in a care home should be a life well led, and that involves interactions not just with staff, or team members, but with loved ones and friends.

Jeremy Richardson, 2 March 22, Birmingham

Jeremy Richardson’s words apply broadly to any “life well led”. Life is about loved ones and networks, about “interaction, society, engaging with community … and I don’t think we should ever forget that.”

That care home residents “gave up and died” shows what matters to everyone at any age of life: family connection.