Since we were first told we were going into lockdown, back in March 2020, we've been bombarded with fear, propaganda, baseless rules, regulations and mandates - forced not to do or say this, that or the other. We've lost our voices, our personal freedoms and the core of what allows us to thrive and heal as human beings - individuality and social connectivity. Ten months later and I still find myself utterly perplexed by our behaviours - and like a broken record keep repeating 'I just don't understand - why would they do this? Why do we respond so willingly and with such thoughtlessness?' Surely it can't all be explained away by money and power-driven governance.
My mothers parents - Grandma and Grandad - married for 64 years and only ever having spent a couple of weeks apart. At the time of the lockdown announcement, were both in hospital - only recently admitted but with all good intentions of going home. My grandad had suffered a stroke but was recovering well and even beginning to walk again. My grandmother had had a bad fall and hurt her leg but with care and rest was on her way back with a care package in place. They're both in their eighties - an age where, admittedly, we expect to lose our loved elders either through illness or simply due to old age. This is the accepted progression as we age - the natural way of things. In recognising this I like to think were able to more fully appreciate the time spent with our grandparents instead of fearing what time might be taken away. Today, we focus solely on the later and in doing so any time that our grandparents had and have is left to slip away. With a long and full life of memories behind them, I would argue that what future they have left is today - not in a few months or weeks time or even in a few days time.
My Grandmother has had 5 family visits since March and my Grandad only a couple more and we have been told we cannot visit again whilst in lockdown and for any relative in their own home we "might want to delay seeing them until they have been vaccinated.” How long does this circus parade go on? How long do my grandparents have left?
My grandparents were both hurriedly and chaotically removed from the hospital back in March and placed in two different care homes - all hospitals were emptied of all their patients, offloading them to any care home that would take them. Not fully comprehending the situation at the time and suddenly living in fear of this new 'virus', as a family, we wanted them back in their own home more than ever, but recognised that if indeed this was the best thing to do for them - to be protected, then for the time being, we would 'protect them' and get them home as soon as we could. Little did we know, months later, both would still be in separate care-homes - looking more permanent as each day went on, my grandmother moved on to her second home due to distrustful mismanagement and neglect by the first and our own attempts at being there for our grandparents stolen away from us with cancelled visit after cancelled visit.
Their condition now? My grandad now spends most of his days lying on a bed, staring blankly into space, politely doing as he's told but has all but given up. Without the constant care and physio required at the home he's no longer able to walk. He was hard of hearing anyway, but without a stimulating environment around him he is on his way to being completely deaf. He's lost his ability to walk, to hear, to laugh, to live - do we really believe we've protected him? If this was to be his course of events, the least we could have done was be there for him rather than subject him to the forced isolation that's been involuntarily posed upon him.
My grandmother - a whole other ball game. With age she was becoming a little forgetful, we're now told she has early onset dementia and with her lack of familiarity and consistency with the home and the carers, is getting more confused and lost as the days go by. We talk to her on the phone, she recognises us, and on a loop begs with all her heart to be picked up and taken home. I listen to my mum's conversations with her and it's heartbreaking. My grandmother threatens to take her life, with no life in the care home to live for. She wants her family and who is anyone to take that away from her? She is full of anger, loss, abandonment and betrayal. It's understandable and worse knowing this could have been avoided.
As a family, particularly my mother and her 3 sisters, this whole situation has erupted a continuous and growing sense of grief, sadness, guilt, depression, unfairness and anger. Any rights they thought they once had to care for their parents have been ripped away. They're unable to be there for them, to hold their hands, to comfort them, to say that it's all going to be okay and to mean it. My grandparents don't have the luxury of time, as is the case with all our elders, they live for the now and we must fight to be a part of that surely? I cannot bear to think of all the families who have lost their loved ones without having seen them for months and without having had the opportunity to properly and peacefully say goodbye. They are the most vulnerable, and yet all I see are families torn apart, grandparents abandoned and worsening in their condition. This doesn't sound like we're protecting them to me - does it feel right to you?