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North-east MSP warns care home residents are ‘losing will to live’ due to wait for increased visiting rights

By Kirsty Brown

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A north-east MSP has warned ministers that care home residents are “losing the will to live” as they wait for increased visiting rights.

Scottish Conservative north-east MSP Alexander Burnett quizzed Christina McKelvie, minister for older people, on what action is being taken to ensure those with conditions such as dementia can see family on a regular basis.

It comes after the MSP for Aberdeenshire West has been contacted by several constituents who are concerned over the lack of social interaction their family members, who are in care homes, are receiving.

In a letter to a concerned daughter who hasn’t been able to see her mother in a care home, health secretary Jeane Freeman said she couldn’t say when a move to stage three - allowing up to three visitors outdoors and one indoors - would happen.

At present only one designated visitor is allowed and it must be the same person each week.

At portfolio questions Mr Burnett raised concerns, asking what was being done to help care home residents and their families who are waiting for restrictions to be eased.

He asked: “Several constituents have been in touch and said that because of lockdown restrictions and a severe lack of social interaction, members of their family have found their quality of life so diminished that they are losing the will to live.

“A lot of conditions affecting older people such as dementia, advance exponentially without human contact.

"Is the minister even aware of this?

“If so, what action is being taken to ensure that the impact of lockdown restrictions is being considered for the elderly and those who need social interaction to quite literally save their lives.”

Alexander Burnett.
Alexander Burnett.

In her reply, Ms McKelvie acknowledged she was well aware of the issues and said: “We are absolutely, very well aware of the impact on older people that lockdown has created, specifically in our care homes.

"We recognise the sacrifices older people in care homes have made while isolating.

“Other visiting options will be opened up which will help to I hope to connect many more people to their loved ones.

“Alexander Burnett makes an excellent point in that connection and how important that is.”

Speaking later, Mr Burnett said: “Care home residents and their loved ones have been abandoned by the SNP Government throughout this pandemic and this can’t continue.

“Residents have gone several months with next to no social interaction and it’s extremely concerning to hear of cases where their quality of life has declined because of this.

“It’s vital the SNP Government gives some clarification to families on when their visiting rights will be eased so more than one family member has the chance to see their loved ones.”

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