Fifteen years ago my mother, in the late stages of Parkinson’s disease, had to be admitted to a care home. It wasn’t perfect, but her suffering, in the last months of her life, was eased by my regular visits and my father’s constant presence by her side.
He would arrive at nine in the morning and stay until the staff had to literally throw him out, usually around ten at night. They hugged, they held hands, they talked, they loved each other deeply.
I can only imagine how utterly miserable we would all have been in today’s circumstances, when he might well be banned from visiting at all.
Jenni Murray (pictured) says her father’s regular visits to his mother’s nursing home when she was in the late stages of Parkinson’s disease helped ease her suffering
She says she can only imagine how utterly miserable her family would all have been in today’s circumstances, when he might well be banned from visiting at all. Picture: Stock
But seeing what three friends who have mums in care homes are going through has given me an all too clear idea.
Over the past seven months, these friends have observed their mothers at a distance (sometimes on Zoom, sometimes through a window) turn from happy, energetic, well women into absolute shadows of their former selves.
This week, they’ve finally been pushed over the edge — terrified by the evidence of their own eyes, and by the Amnesty report, which says the Government’s pandemic policies violated the human rights of older people in care and effectively abandoned them to die.
Amnesty wants a public inquiry to establish why care home residents with suspected Covid-19 were refused hospital treatment, why GPs were told to pressure staff to use ‘do not resuscitate’ orders without discussion, and why care home owners have prolonged lockdowns, refusing entrance to families, because they were afraid of losing their licences if they disobeyed guidance.
Who could hear all that without becoming desperate to get their sick relative out at any cost?
And so one of my friends has left home in London for her parents’ house in Yorkshire, determined to bring her mother back with her. Her father died some months ago. Two others are in the process of shifting their own houses around so they can include their elderly, infirm mothers in their families. They have teenage children and jobs which they are doing from home.
Several of Jenni’s friends have watched their mother’s deteriorate in care homes as they are forced to comfort them and spend time with their loved ones via Zoom or through the window. Picture: Stock
But they feel they have no other option. Their husbands have gone back to the office, so they’re doing the shopping, cooking, cleaning, trying to keep the kids safe and now there will be Mum’s considerable needs to attend to.
All these friends, by the way, have brothers. ‘How are they helping?’ I asked. ‘Too busy,’ came the universal response.
Nothing could underline more clearly the statement by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres about Covid-19 and women.
‘The pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities,’ he wrote. ‘Across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, the impacts of Covid-19 are exacerbated for women and girls.’
Pesky prankster parrot
The African Grey parrot disgraced for swearing at a wildlife park reminded me of our own, Polly.
When we left the house we would hear the phone ringing, so back we’d go to answer it — only to find it was Polly imitating our Trimphone.
We fell for it every time. Smart bird!
Jenni’s family had a mischievious pet parrot named Polly. Picture: Stock
The truth is that when the Government neglects its duty of care to the most vulnerable, it’s women who take up the slack. Of course, I’m concerned about the excessive burden on women, but it’s the seeming dismissal of the elderly that angers me most.
Wasn’t it the Prime Minister who promised, on his first day in office, that the elder care question would be top of his to-do list?
What happened to that plan, Boris, when some 17,000 elderly were forced to sell the homes they’d hoped to hand down to their children, to pay for their care last year? At the very least we should test all staff and visitors to care homes on a regular basis and if a resident is sick, get them to hospital. I doubt anyone would object.
Last week, I watched a television series about the Shipman Inquiry, asking why the GP’s murders of his elderly patients took so long to come to light. The journalist Nicci Gerrard, who had covered the story, could only conclude it was because no one cared enough to enquire why so many of his patients died suddenly, because, well, they were old and not worth worrying about.
Seeing the elderly as disposable is nothing short of criminal, but I fear it’s what has happened in recent months.
And as someone who’s just turned 70, I’m scared. My generation is next. So sort it out, Mr Johnson. Now.
DON’T KEEP MUM, KATE
I fully understand that Kate Moss will do whatever she can to help her 18-year-old daughter Lila Grace advance in the modelling game.
It’s not surprising Kate made a white mini (just like the one in which she used to bomb around London) her birthday gift to her Mini Me.
Jenni suggests there should be limits to Kate Moss’s attempts to promote daughter. Pictured, a young Kate Moss in 1993 and her daughter Lila Grace last month,
But surely there are limits. The latest picture of Lila has her wearing a completely see-through shift with a bra and rather unattractive black knickers. It’s nearly as revealing as the one Kate wore in her younger days (far left).
Isn’t it a mother’s job to say to her girl, ‘And don’t think you’re going out in that!’?
Susannah and the Elders, 1610, painted by Artemisia Gentileschi
PORTRAIT OF A (GREAT) LADY
This year Andrew Marr made a TV series, Great Paintings Of The World, featuring J. M. W. Turner, Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Botticelli, Constable, Monet, Velazquez, Picasso… and what’s missing?
Not a single woman was included. Shocking! On Saturday, I saw the National Gallery’s exhibition of Artemisia Gentileschi.
Her 17th-century paintings are strong, powerful and, as in Susanna And The Elders, furious at lecherous men.
I call her the first #MeToo heroine. She must never be left out of a list of ‘the greatest’.
LICENSED TO KILL… THE MOVIES
I was so looking forward to No Time To Die, the new Bond film, having harboured a passion for Daniel Craig (left) since Our Friends In The North in 1996. ‘That lad will do well,’ I thought.
I understood the release being put off in April, but I’d be only too happy to trot off to the cinema now to see him, and to find out what the writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge, of Fleabag fame, has made of his macho character.
The release of the new James Bond film, No Time To Die, has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, something Jenni is disappointed by, saying she would be ‘only too happy to trot off to the cinema now to see him’. Pictured, Daniel Craig as 007 in Casino Royale
A second delay is a terrible decision, concerned only with the film-makers’ profit — not the future of cinema or those of us longing for a night out.
I’ll have to wait till April 2021, assuming there will still be cinemas by then, given the number closing down now.
Who’d have thought 007 would be licensed to kill the film industry?