Ruthie’s petition has so far attracted 250,000 signatures
The I’m A Celebrity star will be among hundreds descending on No 10 demanding Gloria’s Law to give families full legal access to see loved ones in care homes. It is named after theWest End singer’s late mother who died in May at 87 after being isolated from her family for most of lockdown.
If passed, each of the 400,000 care home residents in the UK will have the right to nominate a family visitor in all circumstances, regardless of Covid outbreaks, restrictions, lockdowns or variants.
Speaking exclusively to the Daily Express, Ruthie, 54, said: “I watched my mother dying from a window.”
She was “a woman who, before the first lockdown, was fairly switched on but after four months of near total isolation was unable to walk, talk, feed herself or eat solid food.
“She dropped drastic amounts of weight and shut down a little more every day.
“This law is designed to ensure that never again will someone living in a home be forcibly alone again, denied basic human rights, left to die of loneliness and emotional neglect.
“Residents do not have a voice and we must fight for them and their families. Imagine they are you.”
Ruthie joins the Rights for Residents protest
Ruthie is an ambassador for Rights for Residents, the campaign group set up to push for unfettered care home access.
She has become a figurehead for hundreds of thousands of families left without hope after being told they cannot see dying loved ones.
Incredibly, even as the country opens up, some providers still limit visits to just 30 minutes and on days and times convenient to them.
It is a scandal Ruthie described as “verging on the criminal”.
She said: “It is absolutely unthinkable to me that even now families are being denied visits with loved ones.
“The ‘lucky’ ones are getting a half hour every couple of weeks and the ‘unlucky’ watch their loved ones die from a distance ‑ without even holding hands before they pass.
“In many cases there are still not enough carers. No volunteers. No entertainment. No human contact.
“Those residents who have friends in the same care home are not even guaranteed contact time with them as there is still segregation in place, nearly two years later.
“This is devastating and verging on a criminal violation of their (and their families’) human rights.”
Ruthie with her mum and sister
Ruthie’s mother Gloria, a former teacher who suffered from dementia and Parkinson’s, had been in Spring Lodge care home in Ipswich, Suffolk, for three years. Ruthie and Gloria were reunited after almost six months when she was designated one of her care team.
The petition is being delivered by Ruthie and Rights for Residents co-founders Jenny Morrison and Diane Mayhew on September 16.
It has so far attracted 250,000 signatures, making it one of the largest ever handed in at No 10.
The grassroots movement was set up at the start of the Covid crisis and now has 10,000 members.
Last month, Jenny’s mother Jean, who lived in a care home, died.
She said: “Through the months of isolation during the pandemic the deterioration in her physical and mental health escalated dramatically and she became a shadow of her former self. Her family spent months grieving for someone that was still alive.”
The protest will be swelled by hundreds of families who have been effectively banned from seeing loved ones. Britain’s major providers claim access for families is largely unrestricted. But the reality is very different, according to those who remain desperate for close contact with loved ones.
Last month, a shattered mother told how the cruel denial of visiting rights had left her on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
She told how she was repeatedly refused access. Her mum’s home even threatened to evict the 76-year-old unless she stopped asking to be made an essential care giver.
She said: “I began not sleeping, which is ironic as I was totally exhausted. Then I would spend my days crying.
“I am angry at the power these care homes have and the decisions they have made on the pretence they are keeping their residents safe. That isn’t true. They are just taking our money and don’t care that loneliness is killing their residents.”
The 46-year-old working mum-of-two was forced to sell her mother’s house to fund her care package, which costs £1,400 a week.
She added: “I have never stepped foot inside her home other than for one visit in a dedicated room with a screen separating us.
“I feel helpless, scared, angry and sad at the time we have lost. My children are 10 and six. They will never get to see their nana again.
“Mum has absolutely deteriorated. Being shut away for so long and not being able to understand why has taken its toll.”
The Department for Health said: “In July the limit to the number of named visitors was removed, as were daily limits to the number of visitors each resident can have at any one time.
“Our message is clear. All care home residents should be supported to get the care and companionship they need from visitors as it is essential to their health and wellbeing.”
To sign the petition visit rightsforresidents.co.uk
Curb on families almost criminal
Imagine a person alone in a room. A life reduced and condensed to a wardrobe, a bed, a chest of drawers and some photos for memories. Food is brought by faceless carers and the outside world, once their playground, is now viewed only through a metre-square window.
On the other side of that window are loved ones who represent memories becoming less vivid with each passing day.
Imagine this person is your father, mother. Imagine they are your daughter, your son.
I watched my mother Gloria dying from a window. A woman who after four months of near total isolation was unable to walk, talk, feed herself or eat solid food and shutting down a little more every day.
It became clear very quickly Covid was a killer, especially to the vulnerable. We understood it was necessary to keep our distance while we all figured out how to manage this pandemic.
Finally, society started opening up. Social guidance was revised, people were eating out to help out, but still residents in homes were left unvisited and shut away.
Lateral flow tests were distributed, PCR tests became part of holiday plans and the vaccine arrived.
But the homes remained closed off and relatives had to watch the remaining sands of their loved ones’ lives drop away without comment or consideration.
There are phenomenal care teams dedicated to their work who are loving towards those in their care. But they are not family.
They did not love my mother the way my sisters and I did, nor do they share our history and a lifetime of memories.
This should just be my sad tale to tell. Unfortunately, I cannot stay silent as this is still happening to families up and down the country.
Ruthie with mum Gloria
Most care homes are essentially private businesses that make their own rules. There is merely Government guidance and no clear legal instruction nor any support to incentivise homes to open their doors to families. Fear of financial loss trumps all.
I managed after a year of not seeing my mum to become an essential family carer. It meant I could see her any time.
The difference in her was huge overnight, not only the reduction in her decline, but the return of faculties carers assumed were gone forever.
It is unthinkable to me that even now, families are being denied visits. The “lucky” ones get a half-hour every couple of weeks and the unlucky watch their loved ones die from a distance, without even holding hands.
This is devastating and verging on a criminal violation of their and their families’ human rights.
That’s why Rights for Residents is delivering a petition to enact Gloria’s Law.
It is designed to ensure that never again will someone living in a home be forcibly alone, denied basic human rights and left to die of loneliness and emotional neglect.
Unless the Government creates a legal precedent, this situation will keep happening and families will continue to be separated based on decisions driven by financial needs.
Residents do not have a voice and we must fight for them and their families.
Imagine they are you.
Comment by Ruthie Henshall
Comment by Jenny Morrison
My mum Jean lived in a care home and had advanced Alzheimer’s.
Through the months of isolation during the pandemic, the deterioration in her physical and mental health escalated dramatically. This was distressing for Mum, and her family spent months grieving for someone alive.
Mum was a real character ‑ funny, determined. She spent her life in Liverpool. She was just a child when the Nazi bombs rained down.
This is how she learnt to survive the difficult times. She was content with the simple things in life.
She worked hard. Yet at the very end of her life, the Government repaid her efforts by locking her away.
She was left in utter despair, as the dementia meant she was unable to comprehend why her family had suddenly abandoned her. I remain haunted by the sight.
When I told Mum that Boris wouldn’t let me come in, she said, “Tell him I’m your mother”. We simply must not allow this to happen again.
Mum was the spark that ignited our Rights for Residents Campaign and we’ll continue to fight for change in her memory.
Jenny Morrison is co-founder of Rights for Residents
How Express shone light on the scandal
The Daily Express has led the way in exposing the scandal of pandemic care home access.
For 18 months we have highlighted how families are devastated by unfair and arbitrary decisions to isolate residents from loved ones.
As Britain opened up, those without a voice suffered in silence. Many still do.
We reported how dementia patients were turfed out of homes when families dared to complain about the denial of visits. Tens of thousands more were locked inside, frightened.
Residents let out for a walk had to isolate for 14 days ‑ a longer quarantine than for arrivals in the UK from abroad.
Even as 75,000 fans filled Old Trafford to kick off the football season, visits were denied.