During Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May), Healthwatch Somerset is highlighting the care and support needs of people living with dementia and their families, and the particular pressures of life under lockdown due to coronavirus.

Bernard’s story

Healthwatch Somerset recently heard from the family of 89-year-old Somerset resident Bernard.  Bernard has lived in a care home for several years due to his advancing dementia.  But, following a fall in February which required a stay in hospital, his care home had decided they could no longer manage his dementia.

By March, Bernard was clinically fit to leave hospital, and the hospital was under pressure to discharge him due to the growing demand to treat coronavirus patients.  Bernard had no home to return to however, and the country was about to go into lockdown.  What would normally be a difficult and stressful situation had just got even harder, for Bernard and his family.

Bernard’s family had to make the hurried decision on a new care home.  They selected a possible care home and, due to the coronavirus, only one family member was allowed to visit to check if it was suitable.  Before making their final decision, the family had to discuss if the home was right for their father via telephone and text, due to the social distancing restrictions.

The day before lockdown Bernard moved from hospital to the specialist dementia home.  He was taken there by hospital transport and one family member was allowed to meet him at the home and help to settle him in.  Both Bernard and his son had their temperature taken at the home as a precaution.

Since arriving Bernard has settled in despite not being able to see his family.  The home keeps in regular contact by sending the family a weekly update email.  They would also facilitate Facetime calls, but the family found this was distressing and confusing for Bernard. The family can send letters via email and they will send video messages to Bernard for his upcoming 90th birthday.

Bernard’s daughter-in-law said: “The home has been amazing; they have sent us pictures and Bernard looks very settled.  We had to make a rushed decision about this home, but I believe it was the right one.  We were trusting them with our loved one.”

Share your story and help make health and social care better for your community

Healthwatch Somerset reaches out to people across the county to find out about their experiences and views of local health and social care services – what works well and what needs to be improved.  They share this feedback with those in charge of health and social care in Somerset to make sure they understand and respond to the needs of those who use the services.

Bernard’s story is a good example of where services have worked well to support the patient and his family.

If you would like to share your story with Healthwatch Somerset to help make health and social care better for your community, call: 01278 264405, or email info@healthwatchsomerset.co.uk, or visit the Healthwatch Somerset website.