Therese Lovell hasn’t seen her mother, Patricia, in the flesh since June, and for someone who used to visit up to three times a week, she’s really missing her.
- There are strict visiting restrictions in aged care facilities in locked-down areas of NSW
- Greater Sydney is still under stay-at-home orders, so visitors are excluded unless they’re providing essential care
- Residents are mostly using technology to connect with family and friends
Ms Lovell’s mother is in an aged care facility in Surry Hills in Sydney’s inner city.
“When there’s been an increased concern about the COVID epidemic, the aged care [facility] very quickly shuts down from the viewpoint of allowing any visitors from family,” Ms Lovell said.
“The only people allowed to go in there at the moment are people that have got a family member that might be dying. So, really for end-of-life compassionate care.
“And the relatives that do go in have to don full PPE (personal protective equipment) with permission from the administrator.”
While Ms Lovell believes shutting the facility to visitors is the right thing to do, she misses seeing her mother smile when she arrives at her room.
Easier to advocate in-person
While nursing staff are taking good care of her mother, Ms Lovell feels she can’t advocate for her needs as well.
“I can physically see what she’s like, and I can have a look at her fingernails, do they need cutting? Or, have the staff not noticed something that I feel like I’d like to bring up? And Mum doesn’t complain, everyone loves Mum,” she said.
Ms Lovell now relies on technology to “see” her mother.
“She kind of just stares at the screen [and] doesn’t kind of know what to do with it, and will sort of smile at me when I first do it, but then she gets a bit distracted. She’s not used to that sort of medium.”
Helping others with tech
Another resident and former IT professional Michael Sibley has helped Ms Lovell and her mum connect while in lockdown.
The 72-year-old has Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and arrived at the facility in April 2020.
“And we’ve been in and out of lockdown at various stages ever since. So, my experience with being in a nursing home is sort of tainted, for want of a better word, by the existence of the COVID virus.”
Mr Sibley has been making the most of his time by getting to know and assisting the other residents with IT matters.
“With a lot of people of this age, of course, they’re not familiar with telephones and iPads and the like,” Mr Sibley said.
“I tend to spend a certain portion of my day helping other patients just contact their family [and] have a chat. My personal phone is an all you can eat phone,” he laughed.
He jokes that he has no complaints, bar one, maybe.
Fears about Christmas
Don Maynard, 85, is in an adjoining low-care facility for people who are more mobile. He’s been there since June 2016.
The former commissioning book editor has to be content these days with writing letters to his friends and family. He misses meeting with them.
“I could go down to the front entrance with a face mask on and they would have a face mask on, and they could just hand something over to me, that’s about it,” Mr Maynard said.
“But I can talk to them from the balcony, usually with the help of a phone because there’s a bit of traffic going by.”
Last Christmas was a Christmas without visitors, and he fears this year will be the same.
“I used to go to have coffee, lunch [at] restaurants nearby with friends. My family came over.
“I was very lucky I had a birthday party … just three days before the lockdown came in the second week of June.