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“Do you not love me anymore?”: Heart-breaking memories of elderly dying alone in the Covid lockdown shared

Three years after the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar introduced the Covid-19 lockdown, advocacy group, Care Champions, are sharing heart-breaking memories of vulnerable and elderly people dying afraid and alone because of what the group describes as “excessive” restrictions.

The group’s founder Majella Beatty says that a Covid inquiry must examine why nursing homes and care centres refused to let any family member access their loved ones despite evidence from other jurisdictions that the blanket ban was hurting the most vulnerable, and causing real trauma to families.

She pointed to the decision by the Dutch government to allow visits – and to the Care Partner system in Northern Ireland which ensured each person in a nursing home or a care setting had a nominated person who would always be allowed in for a visit, with testing and PPE requirements, even during a pandemic.

Last week, former NPHET member, Prof Martin Cormican said that preventing visits from family to those who were dying was “inhumane”.

The stories shared by Care Champions this week are a devastating reminder of the cruelty of a policy that denied families a last farewell and caused such suffering and pain for those who were dying without the people they loved most around them.

Elizabeth Mansfield’s family say she died of a broken heart, denied family visits although she was on a non-Covid ward.

Her daughter Fidelma says that she “still lives with the heartbreak” of not being allowed to visit her mother where she was distressed and upset, and where she died without her family. Fidelma says that a system using PPE could have facilitated a designated visitor from the family.

There were so many other similar heart-breaking stories from families who Care Champions say are “as devastated today as they were when their loved ones died”, because they are “stuck in that terrible time when they were begging to get in and that was refused and their mam or dad died alone.”

Majella Beatty told Cork Today that it was very difficult for families to get closure and to grieve properly because many felt that their loved ones thought they had been abandoned.

She said that families were “tormented” by watching the deterioration of parents and loved ones through the window week and week, and watching their distress at not being able to touch and hold their family members.

One profoundly upsetting reminder of a mother’s last email was particularly distressing.

At a recent Care Champions conference, Christine Brohan, from Farranree in Cork, said that she has watched her mother Kathleen alone through the window of a nursing home in February 2021.

“He pulled the curtains back and my mom was there, dying on her own,” she said.

“For over two hours, we stood outside that window in a storm watching her, I was actually clawing at the window telling her I loved her”.

“I relive it every single day.”


Ms Beatty says Care Champions are seeking a full “human rights-led public inquiry” into what happened in nursing homes during the Covid lockdown, saying that residents, families and staff must be heard.

“It needs to have the residents and the families at the centre of it, they have to have a voice,” she said, adding staff must also be heard.

“There needs to be some level of accountability. I know everyone is saying we can’t have an inquiry that apportions blame, but people have to be accountable,” she said.

“We will use our voices and we will remain vocal until residents and their rights are protected in law,” she said, pointing to a petition which is calling on the Government “to introduce a Care Partner Scheme in Irish law to ensure that the rights of people in residential settings to see their families are legally protected”.

“The Northern Ireland executive endorsed this scheme in September 2020 and other countries have also acted to protect access to family life for residents. These schemes are well established, operate safely and support resident well-being.”

“We call on the Irish Government now to step up and provide the same protection to people living in care settings in Ireland.”


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