A GLASGOW woman is petitioning the government to urgently reinstate visiting to care homes amid fears that the ban is causing “extreme confusion and distress” to residents with dementia.

Pauline Rodger, 57, has been left devastated by the deterioration in her own mother, Betty Rodger, who is 88 and has Alzheimer’s disease, after she had to be quarantined alone in her room for weeks due to a case of coronavirus in her Glasgow care home.

Despite being isolated, the grandmother contracted the virus anyway, lost a stone in weight, and has been phoning her daughter daily “crying and begging” for her to visit.

Ms Rodger, who launched her change.org petition on Sunday, said: “The levels of distress were almost unbearable to listen to.

“She was crying, she was begging, she kept asking me to save her. She asked if she was going to die there.

“It’s not that the staff aren’t helping her, but what she wanted was the help of her family. She wants to see her family.

“Listening to my Mum sometimes is like listening to someone howling in pain. But her pain is mental.

“The way I see it, yes of course there had to be protection. Of course people have to be shielded from the virus.

“But it’s getting to the stage where that is now having a severe impact on their mental health, so by trying to shield them from one thing, we are actually inflicting real distress and damage.

“The time has come for measures to be put in place so that they can be alleviated in some way. I don’t know, given the mental state that my Mum is in, if she will ever fully recover.”

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Visiting at Betty Rodger’s care home was suspended on March 12 - her birthday.

Since then 60 per cent of all care homes in Scotland have reported at least one case of Covid, and 5,635 residents - roughly 17% - have become infected.

The death toll of 1,623 is equivalent to around 5% of care home residents, based on the most recently available census data.

However, it is also known that nearly two thirds (62%) of residents in care homes for older people have some form of dementia.

Ms Rodger said her mother, who has been in her home for nearly two and a half years, had thrived there until the Covid outbreak.

“It’s a really good care home. Great staff, they all know her very well, she gets great care, and since she went into the care home she’d been in a much better physical and mental state than she was latterly when she was living on her own.

“She’s made friends, she was taking part in activities, and we were taking her out at least three times a week so there was a routine that was helping her to live a good quality of life.

“She had lots of contact with her family. She was able to interact and enjoy life in a normal way. Mum’s problem - and it’s got worse and worse - has been with her memory. She can’t remember things from one minute to the next. But she enjoys life - or had been.”

After the home reported its first coronavirus case in April, residents were isolated in their rooms for protection.

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But a week later, Betty was diagnosed with Covid too and as of last week her weight had plummeted by a stone compared to March.

“She had no appetite," said Ms Rodger.

"They thought partly this was because she was confined to her room, and she wasn’t getting the normal triggers of mealtimes together in the dining room.

“And also because she was very upset a lot of the time.

“We might be saving people from coronavirus but we’re condemning them to a rapid and awful descent into confusion and distress.”

She added that she was angry at the lack of detail in the Scottish Government’s routemap out of lockdown in relation to resuming family visits in care homes.

“Their eye has never been on the ball in care homes, and it certainly hasn’t been in relation to the real suffering that’s going for those who just want is some form of contact with their relatives.

“It’s almost like ‘phew, they’re all locked up, they’re safe, we can worry about everything else’

"About schools, about workplaces, about golf and pubs with beer gardens.”

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Phase 1 of the routemap states “we will consider an introduction of designated visitors” - understood to be limited to one or two named visitors per resident - with an emphasis on how, rather than if, this will be implemented.

Phase 2 refers to “phased resumption of visiting...where it is clinically safe to do so”.

Scottish Care, which represents the majority of care home providers in Scotland, said infection control measures - while necessary - had “absolutely come with a significant cost to individuals’ wellbeing”.

CEO Dr Donald Macaskill said: “The ongoing protection of care home residents will be as important as ever as lockdown is eased and the risk of spread further heightens. But we support the call of families and carers for ways to be found that recognise the importance of quality of life alongside quantity.

“This will not be easy, but we believe that through collaboration between families, care homes, national bodies and Scottish Government we can find ways of connection and visitation which promote individual choice and the balancing of risk.”

Jim Pearson, director of policy and research at Alzheimer Scotland said he was worried that some homes had enforced a blanket ban on visiting as alarm over infection rates grew, despite official guidance stating that family members could be allowed in in "exceptional circumstances" - which included cases of distress.

Mr Pearson said: “We recognise how difficult it is for people with dementia, their family and friends who are not able to spend time together because of the current restrictions on visiting care homes.

"While these restrictions are in place to protect those living in care homes, there are circumstances where visiting a loved one should be possible.

"The current Scottish Government care home guidance permits visits in exceptional circumstances. This includes where the person is nearing end of life or is experiencing distress.

"Clearly care homes have a duty to ensure the safety of all residents but we would hope that they are sensitive in balancing the needs to keep everyone involved safe, whilst showing compassion in these difficult circumstances.”

Alzheimer Scotland's freephone dementia helpline offers emotional support and advice 24/7 on 0808 808 3000.

A Scottish Government spokesman said families are allowed to visit loved ones “in their final days and in other exceptional circumstances”, but acknowledged the negative impact restricted visiting has had on quality of life.

He added that the resumption of care home visiting by family members in Phase 2 - which could come into effect after June 18 - “will be guided by evidence, but it is likely to be phased and introduced step by step”.