Susanna Reid struggled to hold back tears on Good Morning Britain today as she told the heartbreaking story of a mother who had been prevented from seeing her severely autistic son due to restrictions on care home visits.
The mother, called Suzanne, wrote in a letter on Facebook: ‘My son is severely autistic, he lives in a care home. He’s distraught he can’t see me or come home to visit.’
As she began to read the message Reid’s voice broke and she said ‘sorry’ before doctor Hilary Jones took over.
Co-host Piers Morgan explained the boy was 26 and did not understand why he had only been able to see his mother twice since February.
Susanna Reid struggled to hold back tears as she read out a letter from a mother, called Suzanne, who had only been able to visit her autistic son twice since February
Government guidelines prevent care homes from allowing physical contact between family apart from in exceptional circumstances.
Currently visits can go ahead only under ‘prison-style’ conditions, with families separated by windows or floor-to-ceiling screens.
A postcode lottery means visiting policies differ around the UK, with some councils imposing blanket bans.
The ban affects thousands of elderly people, many with dementia, but teenagers and young adults with special needs have been hit too.
Some have not seen either family or friends since lockdown was first imposed in March.
Parents spoke of the ‘unbearable torture’ of being separated from their children, insisting: ‘All we want is to give them a hug.’
The youngsters are the hidden victims of a callous policy that campaigners say is killing through loneliness.
All visitors are forced to stay two metres apart, and are encouraged to meet outside. These guidelines apply to all care residents, whether they are elderly patients with dementia or young disabled adults.
As she began to read the message Reid’s voice broke and she said ‘sorry’ before doctor Hilary Jones (right) took over
The Daily Mail’s Christmas campaign is calling for the urgent testing of visitors, allowing them to have meaningful in-person visits safe in the knowledge that they are not infectious.
Dozens of families have backed the campaign, with many describing in detail the agony of watching their children’s health deteriorate through lack of contact.
One grieving mother blames the death of her 21-year-old son on the restrictions, which meant she was banned from seeing him for three months.
The case of Jamie MacFarlane was raised in Parliament last week. He died on October 30 following a catastrophic decline in mental and physical health.
Tory MP Joy Morrissey said Jamie had become ‘thinner and thinner’ in his confusion at not seeing his mother for so long: ‘He was left isolated, bewildered and depressed, often calling out in anguish ‘I want my mum’.’
Among the heartbroken parents is Ruth Adams, 66, who cannot visit her terminally ill son Sam, 33. She said: ‘We’re locked out. It is hell. The Government have locked them up and thrown away the key.’
Many disabled young adults in residential care are non-verbal and communicate with their families through touch and eye contact. This makes in-person and indoor visits especially important.
Other parents are also experiencing similar heartbreak. Ruth Adams, 66, (pictured with her daughter Hannah and son Sam) cannot visit her terminally ill son Sam, 33
As well as the urgent testing of care home visitors, the Mail is urging the Government to roll out 600,000 new rapid ‘lateral flow’ coronavirus tests, which give results within half an hour, to care home visitors as a priority.
The majority of the country’s 410,000 care home residents are elderly and 70 per cent have dementia.
Tens of thousands of young adults live in care facilities around the UK. They, too, have been unable to touch or hug their parents and siblings for months.
Many have severe disabilities which mean they are unable to speak. They cannot communicate properly through Zoom calls, only through eye contact and touch. But this is now impossible.
Most do not understand there is a pandemic going on, they just feel abandoned. For mothers and fathers, the pain of being separated from their children is almost unbearable. Their mental health has deteriorated too.
One mother who has not hugged her son since February was offered anti-depressants. ‘I don’t need drugs, all I need is to see my son,’ she said.
The only thing keeping some alive is the hope that one day soon they may finally be able to hug their child again.
Here are some of their stories.
It destroys me to go 8 months without a cuddle
Linda and John Arthur used to spend every weekend with their severely disabled daughter Alexandra, surrounding her with love and cuddles.
But they have seen her just four times since March and had to keep a two-metre distance while wearing full personal protective equipment.
‘All I wanted to do was pick her up out of her wheelchair and put her on my knee and cuddle her,’ said Mrs Arthur. ‘She kept trying to reach out and touch me, but there’s no way of explaining that I’m not allowed to touch her.
Linda (pictured with her daughter Alexandra) and John Arthur used to spend every weekend with their severely disabled daughter Alexandra, surrounding her with love and cuddles.
‘We’ve gone eight months without being able to touch, kiss or cuddle our daughter. It destroys you. She is 32, but is still a child really.’
Mr and Mrs Arthur, of Ashford, Kent, used to treasure days out with Alexandra, who is quadriplegic and needs round-the-clock care.
She has been living happily in her care home for more than a decade. Mrs Arthur said: ‘She is non-verbal and doesn’t have any communication apart from touch or eyes, but that has been taken away from us.
‘For six months we weren’t allowed to visit her at all.
‘We would FaceTime but I can’t explain to her why I’m not there.
‘It would mean everything to get that rapid testing and give her a hug. We can see the staff hugging our child and we can’t do it ourselves.’
Her carers say: If all else fails, call Dad
Charlotte Martin misses her father Brett so much that she falls asleep hugging a pillow with a picture of him on it.
Mr Martin, 55, said: ‘It hurts more and more each day I don’t see her. I just want to be able to give her a hug this Christmas.’
They have seen each other just once since March but had to stay two metres apart in her care facility.
Charlotte Martin, 33, misses her father Brett, 55, (pictured) so much that she falls asleep hugging a pillow with a picture of him on it
Charlotte, 33, hugs a pillow he made with his photo on and listens to his recordings of her favourite books to cope with the separation.
Mr Martin, of Minster, Kent, said: ‘Charlotte is non-verbal so human touch and cuddling is extremely important.
‘She’s very tactile and she’s still very light so I used to still be able to pick her up.
‘I can’t describe how much it would mean to me to be able to pick her up again. She’s always been such a daddy’s girl. Her carers always say when she’s misbehaving that “if all else fails, call Dad”.’
Charlotte lived with him until she was 18 then moved into residential care. Mr Martin added: ‘I speak to her every day on FaceTime so I don’t think she feels abandoned. But she’s probably confused. Charlotte absolutely loves life. Before Covid, I would take her to discos.’
Touch is how she connects with family
Autistic teenager Alissa Morris has not seen a single relative since March – not even through a window.
The 19-year-old, who is non-verbal and has learning difficulties, has been locked up in her care facility with no access to any family or friends.
Her grandmother Christine, 80, is terrified Alissa will forget who she is and worries about her ‘all day everyday’.
Autistic teenager Alissa Morris, 19, (pictured with her mother Fran) has not seen a single relative since March – not even through a window
Miss Morris said: ‘I’ve begged to see Alissa for so long, I’ve even offered to buy a hazmat suit. Because Alissa is non-verbal, touching, cuddling and hand holding is so important to her, that’s the way she connects with us.
‘It would mean the absolute world to be able to see her just once. We speak on FaceTime but it’s just not enough.
‘We don’t know how she’ll react when we see her again.
‘I’m scared that we won’t mean anything to her and she’ll have forgotten who we are. Alissa is basically just a little girl. All she wants is love and to know she is loved.’
Alissa has been in assisted living care since last year but used to see her mother Fran, who also has learning difficulties, and grandmother.
Miss Morris said she was prepared to take the fight right up to Boris Johnson to ensure she can see her granddaughter in time for Christmas.
She said: ‘I will carry on making a nuisance of myself until that little girl is able to see her family.’
We’ve not seen her since March
Only child Sophie Poskitt, who has autism and learning difficulties, has always seen her parents on Christmas Day.
But the 31-year-old could be alone this Christmas and has not seen her mother Susan or father Simon since March, not even through a window.
Only child Sophie Poskitt, 31, (pictured with her father Simon) who has autism and learning difficulties, has always seen her parents on Christmas Day
Mrs Poskitt, of Rotherham, is pleading for an end to the ‘cruel restrictions’ so she can hug her daughter.
She said: ‘We can’t even speak on FaceTime because she was too upset. She couldn’t understand why we weren’t there in person. It’s just so awful. We have never gone this long without seeing her.’
She’s upset behind a pane of glass and looking so confused
For mum Debbie Harris-Powell, there is nothing more painful than seeing her little girl upset from behind a pane of glass.
This is a daily reality as she has not been able to cuddle her daughter Emily, 25, properly since the pandemic began in March.
The 51-year-old is now pleading for change as she hit out at the ‘cruel’ restrictions on care home visits.
For Debbie Harris-Powell, 51, there is nothing more painful than seeing her little girl Emily, 25, (pictured) upset from behind a pane of glass
Emily has autism and also suffered a brain injury after dry drowning in a pool six years ago. She is non-verbal, making touch and human contact the best way for her mum to communicate with her. But Emily’s care home is not operating face-to-face visits.
Mrs Harris-Powell said: ‘I cannot explain the feeling of seeing your child looking upset behind a pane of glass. It’s unnatural that I can’t hug her, it’s completely cruel.
‘She just looks at me through the window with such confusion. It’s like she’s saying, “What are you doing? Why can’t you be with me?”
‘As a mother, it has led to non-stop anxiety and worry about her.
‘I haven’t had a full night’s sleep since March. I am desperate to give her a cuddle and I feel like nobody is hearing me.’
Over the summer, Mrs Harris-Powell, of Birmingham, was able to see Emily for hospital visits. She even changed one appointment so it was on the same day as Emily’s birthday, allowing her to celebrate with her daughter.