It was a simple declaration of love between a husband and wife that was taken for granted in the days leading up to the arrival of coronavirus dark shadows.
But yesterday, 84-year-old Bob Underhill was finally able to kiss his beloved Patricia, 82, after the gruesome Covid restrictions that separated them were finally lifted.
The emotional scene took place in the nursing home she lives in due to her Alzheimer's disease, but was made possible by a new introduction of coronavirus testing.
It meant that after weeks of separation, Bob could comfort his wife and look into her eyes as he squeezed her hand.
Their reunion at the Chiswick Nursing Center was made possible by a million tests promised by the Department of Health and Welfare.
Their kits have already been shipped to nearly 400 large nursing homes so the first visits could take place today – with visitors cleared of Covid upon arrival.
Some vendors have privately raised concerns about the timing of the announcement, received no testing, and stated that it could take up to a week to get up and running.
But in other parts of the country the new introduction had been a success.
Bob Underhill (84) and his wife Patricia (82), who suffers from Alzheimer's, finally kiss after weeks
The reunion could take place after new coronavirus tests in the Chiswick Nursing Center
Patricia was unable to have physical contact with her husband due to Covid restrictions
The staff at Kepplegate Care Home in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancs were in tears when 90-year-old Audrey Abram got up from her chair today to hug her daughter Shelley Anderon.
Audrey, who celebrated her 90th birthday last month by sitting socially aloof from her daughter, beamed when she learned that she could finally hold her.
Shelley, 58, said the long months of physical separation from her mother had been "unbearable".
She added, "Mom has dementia so she doesn't really understand. She only went home last Christmas after we looked after her for three years, but it got unsafe," she said.
"When we visit her, you tell her for a minute and she understands that she shouldn't come near you, then she gets up and wants to come up to you and it's so hard to push someone away."
"Your instinct with anyone is to hug them, especially when they're upset or something, and they're upset not to see you, the rest of the family, grandchildren and great-grandchildren."
“It was so amazing to be able to hug her like that – and such a nice surprise. My husband Mark and I arrived this morning and didn't realize we were the first to hug mom. It meant a lot to us and her.
“At the moment it will only be me and Mark who will see them, but there are also four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren who would like to see Mum. Hugging her made us Christmas. "
The house, which has been allowing socially distant indoor visits since July, has not had a single case of coronavirus since the pandemic began.
They spent £ 2,500 from their government-allocated infection control fund to buy 100 side-flow Covid test kits that give a result in just 30 minutes.
"We chose to do this because we didn't think the government-issued kits would arrive soon enough," said manager Adam Purnell, "and they certainly haven't come yet."
It came after Sylvia Knight was finally allowed to visit her ex-husband Richard at Bereweeke Court Care in Winchester in a pilot version of the program.
She said, “I was overwhelmed and overjoyed. It was emotional. Even though it's only been seven weeks, I feel so sorry for all of the relatives who have gone months and months without seeing their loved ones. & # 39;
Theresa Snelling hugs her daughter Serena, whom she is allowed to visit with physical contact
The moment 90 year old Audrey got up from her chair to hug her daughter Shelly
Sylvia Knight hugs Richard during the nursing home trial
Sylvia's visit to Richard showed how the system would work in practice.
She added, “I got a call and said there was going to be a test that the relatives pilot ran out of and I would be interested, of course I said.
“The test results came through on my phone, so I came here, they took my temperature, I was wearing gloves and I was on and signed the register.
& # 39; My phone was checked to make sure it had come through as negative for what it had.
"Then I was shown into Richard's room to see him and it was just wonderful. Actually, I almost walked in just wanted to see him and I would take this test every day if it meant I could visit Richard and I know that I'll be regular now as long as I'm negative. & # 39;
It came when Liverpool City Council announced this morning that workers in 12 nursing homes had been trained in the use of the sidestream devices.
Abbeydale participates in the study and explains how the new system will work.
Liverpool nursing home staff are being trained on how to do side-flow Covid testing
Adam Purnell of Kepplegate Care Services hailed the value of the new side tests
Kerry Johnson, manager of the nursing home, said visitors would go to a center 24 hours before the scheduled visit for PCR and lateral flow tests.
She added, “Depending on whether they are negative, they come to the nursing home.
“They will do another side flow test, they will use the proper PPE including a mask, dress, gloves and visor if necessary, and then if this turns out negative they will obviously be assisting their loved ones in having their visit.
Each nursing home resident can name two relatives they see twice a week, regardless of their coronavirus level.
Adam Purnell, manager at Kepplegate Care Service in Preesall, Poulton-le-Fylde, had previously run his own tests to get people in for hugs and welcomed the new side flow tests.
“We advertise her as a hug in a box. It's going to be absolutely fantastic.
“We can now remove the two meters gap between relatives and loved ones in the nursing home and they can make these close contact visits.
"Two tests give us extra security and it's just one security measure we like to take and the risk that we like to take action too."
Nursing home visits have been tightly regulated throughout the year to reduce the risk of people spreading Covid-19 in homes where residents are extremely susceptible to the disease (Image: A woman visits her stepfather at a house in Falmouth, Cornwall last week)
THE NEW NURSING HOME VISITING REGULATIONS
- The “standard position” of nursing homes should be to support and facilitate visits.
- Nursing home residents living on all levels can see their families in the house until Christmas thanks to the distribution of rapid tests.
- Residents can select two different people as designated visitors who can visit up to twice a week. The two visitors should remain constant, for example the same family members.
- Upon arrival at the nursing home, you will be tested with rapid cross-flow tests that give results within 30 minutes.
- Visitors must wear appropriate PPE, including face masks, and be two meters away from other residents and staff.
- They may hug and hold hands with their loved ones, although they are advised to minimize contact.
- Visitors must book slots in advance and the houses can manage the number of visits allowed, taking into account the additional workload.
- All visits, except those for the end of life, should be canceled immediately if an outbreak of Covid occurs in the nursing home.
- More than a million tests have been sent to the 385 largest nursing homes in the country that will use them today. Details on the rollout in other locations will be announced shortly.
- Some residents under 65 are allowed to leave their nursing home to join families for Christmas if they test negative. But they can only "bubble" with another household and have to isolate themselves when they return.
The announcement is a huge win for the Daily Mail's family reunification campaign through Christmas.
"This is a landmark time for visits," said Vic Rayner of the National Care Forum.
"It is being adopted by nursing home residents, their loved ones and providers nationwide."
Guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health last night say visits should be made at all levels – unless there is a coronavirus outbreak in the nursing home.
Most of the country's 410,000 dependents were only allowed to see relatives through prison-style screens and windows. Other homes have put blanket bans in place, leading some elderly people to give up their lives.
However, in a profound policy change, Matt Hancock stated that all residents will be allowed face-to-face indoor visits until Christmas. The Minister of Health said: “I know how difficult it was for people in nursing homes and their families to be apart for so long. The breakup was painful, but it kept residents and staff safe from this deadly virus.
"I am very happy that we are now able to reunite families and enable people to have more secure contact with their loved ones until Christmas."
The rapid tests will be delivered to all 16,000 nursing homes in the country during the month. Upon arrival, visitors are given a side flow test that provides highly accurate results within 30 minutes.
A negative result means they are allowed inside and can hold hands or hug their loved ones as long as they wear PPE.
For the past three weeks, the Mail's Christmas campaign has drawn awareness of the disastrous effects of visiting bans on the mental and physical health of residents.
Tens of thousands of vulnerable and elderly people have been forced to die alone, deprived of one last loving hug from their families.
Caroline Abrahams of Age UK charity said: “The Daily Mail's campaign highlighted an issue that means everything to hundreds of thousands of elderly people and their families, and it is clear that it has successfully moved hearts and minds.
Most of the country's 410,000 dependents were only allowed to see relatives through prison-style screens and windows. Other houses have issued blanket bans. Pictured is Dave Stallard at his West Sussex nursing home being visited by his wife Irene
“It is really good news that the government changed its position significantly on the visit, and we sincerely hope that their new guidelines, as well as the additional practical support they offer nursing homes, will bring many families to life after a terrible time be reunited with their loved ones for a long time. & # 39;
Residents' rights campaign group said last night, "There is no longer any excuse to keep families locked out."
The Department of Health said it would spend an additional 46 million PPE items like face masks and robes to care for nursing homes for visitors. They said families should minimize contact to reduce the risk of transmission.
Fiona Carragher, a director of the Alzheimer's Society, said: “Hugs, a smile from a familiar face, holding hands, joy again – this is extremely important, as is the basic care that family carers offer people with dementia. Literally keeping people alive and bound to the world.
& # 39; Thank you very much to the Daily Mail for reinforcing this absolutely tragic topic. In such a shattering year, this news of a happier Christmas has never been more necessary. & # 39;
Care England's Martin Green, who represents health care providers, warned that households were still facing "enormous administrative and logistical burdens" to allow visits before Christmas. He criticized the government for not providing additional staff.
He added: “There does not seem to be any understanding that this is an enormous administrative and logistical burden on care providers.
"There's all this extra work that is put on people and somehow they think that there is a bottomless pit of resources to deal with all of these things."
Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group, said nursing homes are facing a "mammoth task" of enabling family visits before Christmas and many relatives are likely to lose.
He said, “How to get everyone by arrangement to see their loved ones before Christmas is a great challenge for us. We want the visit to take place, there is no question about that.
"But I wish the government had said we will do our best to do this as soon as possible" instead of before Christmas because logistically I don't know how we all are in the time we have before Christmas can safely get through.
“My great fear is that houses could be held responsible for not doing it. It is not our fault. We want this to happen, but we don't have the tests and there is still a lot to be done.
"It seems like the government has put us in the line of fire if it goes wrong."
SEVEN IN TEN WITH LOVERS IN THE NURSING HOME WHO YOU HAVE NOT BEEN SEEN SINCE MARCH
Edward Holmes, 81, has not been able to see his granddaughter Alysha Astley since the lockdown began in March
Seven out of ten people with a close relative in a nursing home haven't seen her since March, shocking new figures show.
Hundreds of thousands of family members have had “eight excruciating months” during which it is forbidden to visit their loved ones.
Others have been invited to oversee nursing homes for an end-of-life visit – only to find out they have to watch their spouse or parent die through a window or video call.
A survey by Age UK found that 70 percent of people have not been able to visit their loved ones in person since nursing homes closed their doors when the epidemic began.
And no alternative to face-to-face visits such as video calls or phone calls was offered to a third party.
Around 45 percent said their loved ones were unable to use digital communication options, so face-to-face visits are crucial.
This is because many residents are deaf, blind, or have dementia – meaning they cannot understand or use the technology.
The survey of nearly 3,000 people also highlighted the tragic consequences of being banned from visiting bedridden residents who cannot even get up to wave to their families through a window.
The research, shared exclusively with the Daily Mail, underscores the urgency of our Christmas campaign.
We are calling for the 410,000 UK care home residents to hold hands and hug their loved ones through regular visitor tests.
Thanks pod! Relatives can finally talk to loved ones in nursing homes as the nonprofit project makes sealed cubicles that allow secure intercom communication
By Mario Ledwith for the Daily Mail
Since visits were banned, nursing homes have had to find new ways to connect families with loved ones.
And these sealed bowls show the length some have gone.
The structures sit flush against the windows of nursing homes, creating a safe place for relatives to use an intercom to communicate with residents on the other side of the glass.
The pod allows visitor Lynsey to speak to a resident at the Care for Veterans charity home
A pod brought good luck to residents of the Care for Veterans charity home in Worthing, West Sussex.
Andy Neaves, director of the charity, said the pod, already in use, is "a real game changer".
The pods are from Emma Joanne and Bruce Martindill, a builder and artist who used their free time during this year's Lockdowns to start the SafeTime Pod project.
Happy conversation: Lynsey is chatting with resident Dudley
They have now built pods for more than 30 homes across the UK.
The SafeTime Pod project – a not-for-profit project – has grown from just two people to a team of 12 creative freelancers working in a barn in Ashurst, West Sussex.
The team builds all pods by hand and carries out all deliveries themselves. There are now more than 30 pods installed across the country from houses in Cornwall to Glasgow.
Another 25 pods are to be delivered before Christmas.
The project did not receive any funding or loans and was financed entirely from the founding couple's own savings.
The SafeTime Pod is used in the Care for Veterans nursing home in Worthing, West Sussex
The pods create a safe place for relatives to use an intercom to communicate with residents on the other side of the glass. Imagine a Christmas pod
England's largest nursing home provider has installed partition windows in purpose-built garden rooms and outbuildings after ministers said floor-to-ceiling partitions were essential for indoor visits.
Thanks to the new Covid-safe suites, elderly residents can see relatives without having to sit outside or resort to video calls.
The team that makes the Safe Pod with a Christmas pod
But families are still hoping that the prison-style rooms will no longer be needed by Christmas and that for the first time in months they will be able to kiss or hug each other.
This depends on the Department of Health and Welfare successfully distributing tens of thousands of coronavirus tests, which can be analyzed in the field and deliver a result in 30 minutes, to nursing homes across England.
"Wonderful news for families everywhere"
Comment from Helen Whately, Secretary of State for Social Welfare
Of all the victims people have made to fight the virus, one of the most difficult has been not seeing loved ones in nursing homes.
The fight against the coronavirus has been so painful because the virus thrives on the social contacts we all value.
Christmas is of course a time for family and a time to get together.
After a year in which we have all made so many sacrifices, we want to support as much social contact as we can safely allow during the Christmas season.
During this pandemic, protecting the people most at risk from the virus, including those who live and work in nursing homes, was rightly our top priority.
We know some of the visiting restrictions we put in place were strict and we were determined to support visits as soon as we could safely do so.
The amazing advances we've seen in testing have enabled us to conduct more regular testing in nursing homes. This is an important step in bringing families back together and enabling people to see loved ones again.
In the past few months we've seen promising attempts at cross flow tests that can produce results in as little as 30 minutes.
As these tests become more widespread, we are rightly prioritizing the social care sector.
We will be sending over a million cross flow tests to nursing homes this month.
With these tests, we are now able to allow up to two visitors per resident to see their loved ones twice a week.
As always, we work closely with the industry and finally decide how many visits can safely take place in the care home that the residents and the surrounding area know best.
Testing alone is not enough, however. It must be used along with PPE and excellent infection control practices in nursing homes to reduce the risk as much as possible while allowing visits.
We're sending 46 million free PPE items to nursing home providers to upgrade the equipment that is already available.
This year has been so difficult for so many.
I know this news is welcomed by nursing home residents and their families, and I wish them all the best as they celebrate Christmas together.
I want to thank the Daily Mail and all of its readers for their campaign and powerful telling of the stories of those affected by Covid restrictions.
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