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'Care staff are a lifeline for my wife... they deserve all the help we can give'

Jim Wells


Jim Wells and his wife Grace

Jim Wells and his wife Grace

Jim Wells and his wife Grace

Jim Wells and his wife Grace

Jim Wells talks to his wife Grace through a window at her care home

Jim Wells talks to his wife Grace through a window at her care home

Jim Wells and his wife Grace

Tuesday, February 3, 2015, was the day that life changed totally for me and my family. I was sitting in a meeting in the Long Gallery at Stormont when my daughter phoned to say that my wife Grace was lying on the floor of our home, having suffered a serious stroke.

The next seven months saw her cared for in the stroke unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital, intensive care at Craigavon and rehabilitation at Musgrave Park.

We then had to make the crucial decision on which care home she should be admitted to.

Little did we know how fortunate we would be with our choice and how much the staff would help us keep our sanity over the last four-and-a-half years.

If I was in awe at the dedication of care home staff before the current crisis, the events since February have sent my admiration for what they do to a different planet.

The coronavirus crisis has brought the crucial role that care homes perform into the front and centre of the public's attention - and not a day too soon.

Up and down the country thousands of dedicated staff are reporting for duty every day, with many care assistants earning less than £10 an hour.

They know that every day they place themselves in the front line of the battle, but they still they turn up for duty as normal.

My family have been locked out of Bannview care home in Banbridge for over five weeks.

We accepted this decision as totally necessary, but it has been such a difficult period for all of us.

The only contact I have with my wife of 37 years is a few minutes speaking through the window of her room every evening.

The staff call us Romeo and Juliet, and when a care assistant asked me what I would have done if Grace's room had been on the first floor, I immediately answered, "I would have bought a ladder".

After four weeks of the lockdown, we received the phone call that we had been dreading - the virus had been detected in the home.

This was not unexpected as so many other homes had had a similar experience, but it still was a major shock.

Since then the staff have moved mountains to protect all of the residents and now they look like they are dressed to walk on the moon rather than to help care for the residents.

Grace remains well but really misses seeing her family, especially what we both believe are the most wonderful four grandchildren in the country.

I welcome the Government's decision to test all care home residents, but this should have happened as soon as it became clear just how many of these very vulnerable people had contracted the virus.

I welcome the increased funding for care homes, but more support will be needed as the crisis continues.

Belfast Telegraph