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Ex-councillor fears mother will die alone after nursing home visiting ban

Ex-councillor on pain of not being allowed to see her ill mum in nursing home owing to Covid-19 visiting ban

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Carol Black and her mum Janet Smyth

Carol Black and her mum Janet Smyth

Carol Black and her mum Janet Smyth

A former Ulster Unionist councillor fears her mum will die alone in a local nursing home without her family after a ban on visiting was imposed a week ago.

Carol Black says she fully understands the need to protect the vulnerable by banning visitors to nursing homes but said it was agony not being able to be with her dying mum.

Carol, who served on Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council for 15 years up until this year, said: "We have all cried non-stop and at the same time we have had to be strong through the tears.

"We have been told mum doesn't have long to live and we haven't been able to get in to see her for a week now.

"It's got to the point where she is not eating or drinking and no one knows how long she has left. It is very upsetting for our whole family.

"My sister has epilepsy and my other sister is a nurse in the Ulster Hospital and my daughter is diabetic so we have a lot going on as a family and we want to be near our mum.

"It is very challenging on our mental health. Mum is lying dying and we want to be with her and hold her hand and let her know we are here."

Carol, from Carnmoney, left politics this year to become a full-time foster mum. She has two children of her own, Victoria (22) and Andrew (33).

She says her mum's condition is all the more alarming for the family because they were not expecting it.

Up until just 10 weeks ago her mum, Janet Smyth was a fit and healthy 88-year-old enjoying life.

She took ill with shingles and had to be admitted to Antrim Area Hospital.

She was then moved to Whiterock rehabilitation unit and finally to Ashwood House Nursing Home in Glengormley two weeks ago.

Carol says: "Mum had breast cancer and the shingles attacked her scar and then she developed MRSA and that affected her immune system.

"She got the shingles on her front and back and she has not recovered from it. Up until just a couple of months ago she was living in a residential home and having a laugh and carrying on.

"Now we've had to arrange her funeral and we've had the minister up to say a prayer for her and when he finished she said how lovely it was and she hasn't spoken since."

Staff at the nursing home are currently trying to arrange for the family to see their mum via FaceTime video to help them at this difficult time, Carol says.

"The staff in the nursing home are brilliant and they have given us some light at the end of the tunnel by trying to arrange for us to FaceTime mum. It's not ideal but at least we will get to see her wee face and be able to talk to her.

"She might not be able to talk to us but they say hearing is the last thing to go, so hopefully hearing our voices will be a comfort to her."

Carol is very aware that her family is not alone in their distress as many others face similar restrictions or bans on visiting sick loved ones.

She adds: "We understand why we need to stay away but you never think it will come to this - being separated from your parent in their hour of need. I know the staff there are doing all they can for mum.

"It is very, very hard but there are a lot of people in the same situation as me, not just here but all over the world.

"Maybe the Government need to look at how they can use modern technology to allow people to have contact with their loved ones."

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