Around the world people are living in a state of what has been termed ‘social’ isolation. For us, that means the two of us living here in a nice house with a garden. We are able to go out for shopping and to take a walk. We aren’t able to socialise with others, which is why it is called social isolation. Many people however are not only socially isolated, but completely isolated. People over 70 and those with health conditions have been told to stay home and not go out. Some of those people live alone. Like my mum.
I am increasingly worried about her wellbeing. She lives a pretty isolated life already. She moved to live closer to my brother 2 years ago, she now has a bungalow and shops nearby. Thankfully she has been able to regain the independence she lost when my dad became ill and died over 5 years ago. Well she had. Having been told to stay home, she has been abiding by the rules. This now means her world, small already has shrunk down further. My brother, though close, is a supermarket manager. Therefore he worries about visiting, but has to because otherwise she would have no food.
Within days of the lockdown her cleaner stopped working to care for her daughter, now home from school. The company have no one else to send. Mum is 80. She can prepare her own meals, wash up and care for herself, but can’t clean her bungalow. One of us needs to do it therefore. We have a neighbour popping in every day to see if she is ok and to get anything she needs. But they are not there to care, nor to stop for a chat. Anyway you aren’t meant to go into other people’s houses.
A week ago I decided to visit her. This is because my brother needed a rest. He’s been working hard and needed a day in his own home without worries. I felt the need to check on her, to do any cleaning and shopping. This is within the rules but I did feel like I was breaking some law given the number of signs I saw saying ‘essential travel only’. But actually this was essential to me. While she says she is fine and she certainly is managing. She is far from doing well. She is physically fit, but emotionally fragile.
Things came to a head this morning when she had run out of tablets. The pharmacy had been due to deliver but hadn’t. She got confused about the time and couldn’t understand why the pharmacy weren’t answering. Also that yesterday was a holiday day even though she knows it’s Easter. She had what she described as a panic attack. Luckily she has a lifeline button which she pressed and was calmly talked down by the carer at the other end. It was before 9am so the pharmacy wasn’t open. Later she cheerfully called back. She had done the sensible thing and got on her mobility scooter at 9 and gone to the chemist herself. her first trip out for 3 weeks.
My point is that I understand the need for social isolation and for protecting the vulnerable. I obviously don’t want my mum to get sick and die of this awful virus. I want her to enjoy the rest of her life and to be safe. But loneliness is a killer on its own. Isolation like she is enduring plays with the mind, small things become huge.
I’m visiting her again Monday. It may be the last time for a while because I am going back to front line nursing this coming week. If the police stop me when I am on my way I shall be clear with them that this is an essential journey to make sure she is safe. I hope that will be acceptable to them.