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Gemma Louise Bond: 'My gran overcame virus, now all I want is to see her again'

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Gemma-Louise Bond and her nanny.

Gemma-Louise Bond and her nanny.

Gemma-Louise Bond and her nanny.

My 81-year-old grandmother Mary, who has overcome Covid-19, is the greatest love of my life, but I have no idea when I will be able to visit her again in her care home.

She has advanced mixed dementia (vascular and Alzheimer's) and the care team that look after her are amazing. Ciara, Irene, Grainne, Fiona, Laura and all the team, thank you for being her family when we cannot be there.

The Northern Ireland government's stepped recovery plan is clear and we seem to be making positive steps to ensure we slowly phase out of lockdown.

There is a line in the plan about "family and community", but nowhere on this does it mention our vulnerable loved ones, like my grandmother, in care homes.

Like so many people of my generation, my grandmother was my other parent. She was my first friend and trusted confidante. Despite her illness, she continues to be my number one cheerleader.

I had been visiting her every other day, but in response to the Covid-19 crisis, her care home closed to visitors on March 26. Like more than 75 care homes in Northern Ireland, her home was one of the unlucky ones to have an outbreak.

As a family we were naturally devastated to find our grandmother had tested positive for Covid-19. At 81 and with other health problems, we naturally panicked and some of her friends unfortunately succumbed to the virus.

For whatever reason, the strain she had was mild. Aside from a bit of a tickly cough and feeling sleepy, her body seemed to cope well. She, along with many of the other residents, have recovered well.

I communicate with her via video chat every other day. It's the most wonderful part of my day, despite her sometimes trying to feed me her sweets or tea through the computer screen.

I posted an open letter on my social media channels to the First and Deputy First Minister during the week, posing the question around access to care homes, along with asking for mental health counselling for the care staff. As selfish as I am in wanting to see her, I also recognise that the people who have remained working in the care home have experienced insurmountable trauma over the last two months.

The government should be providing some provisions for this to ensure the people who care for our loved ones are able to do so in the best way possible, as well as ensuring that their overall wellbeing, relationships and life outside work are not impacted by their job.

It is hard not seeing my friends and colleagues, but they are healthy people. Mary's last chapter is one I don't have an end date for. I don't want the last hug I gave her in March to be the end of my story with her. Despite dementia, I hope we have many new memories to make.

She has survived the virus. We want to be able to celebrate this with her. I worry about how her wellbeing is being impacted by not being able to see us. I know I certainly have struggled with my mental health during lockdown as I came to terms with not seeing her, so I ask again to those in power, when can I see my grandmother?

Belfast Telegraph