Trapped since Christmas – sad stories emerge of aged care lockdown

Locked down since Xmas
Mr Stanley McPherson. Image: Courtesy Today Show/Nine.

Having been locked in a room since Christmas, Stanley McPherson has been alone for 40 days, Nine’s Today show reports.

Mr McPherson, 89, resides at a Newcastle, NSW, aged care facility – one of the numerous around Australia that have enforced lockdown measures as they tackle COVID outbreaks and employee shortages.

He says, “It’s terrible, you are looking at the four walls and it’s terrible they can lock us away like this.”

Kerry McPherson can’t hold back tears as she details how her father’s health has declined.

“It’s hell to him. He has told me straight out he feels like he is in prison. He says even prisoners get time out in the yard,” she adds.

Ms McPherson enjoyed being able to visit her father daily just outside his screen door, as she felt this brought him a level of comfort.

However, a stop was put to this limited contact by management, after they deemed it a COVID-19 risk.

While aged care falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government, Ms McPherson approached the NSW Premier and Health Minister to become involved on her dad’s behalf.

After relentlessly calling numerous departments, her father was eventually permitted to get 15 minutes of fresh air a day, however, other residents have not been so fortunate.

Ms McPherson states, “They are not going to die of COVID-19, they are going to die because they are not getting any exercise.”

It’s a familiar story in another aged care facility in regional Victoria.

Ken Dyer, 92, and his wife of 67 years, Margaret – who has Alzheimer’s – have had to endure too. Both have been contained for weeks in their rooms under lockdown measures.

Speaking from inside his room, Mr Dyer heartbreakingly shares that he doesn’t think he and his wife will live to see the end of lockdowns.

The couple’s daughter, Sue Macfarlane, describes seeing her father and mother’s health rapidly deteriorate.

She notes, “For my father, it impacted him psychologically, he felt he could not go on any longer. For my mother, she just didn’t know what was going on, she was losing weight and not eating.”

Ms Macfarlane lobbied the facility consistently until she was eventually permitted to arrive and visit her parents after weeks of lockdown, though she was startled by what she found. 

“Oh, I walked in and mum was just slumped sleeping curled up in a chair looking frailer in just that short space of time,” Ms Macfarlane describes.

“There were cotton buds on the floor which had been used for sores, the floor was not clean … mum had all bits of food down her top.”

Mr Ken Dyer and his wife Margaret. Image: Courtesy Today Show/Nine.

Mr Dyer notes that lockdown has been a greater struggle for his wife.

He says, “Margaret has felt it very hard, her diet has been poor where usually it has been a good one. I felt that it was coming to the end, I couldn’t do anything.”

Recalling a particularly distressing moment, Ms Macfarlane remembers seeing a resident on the floor begging to be assisted up. 

She was directed to ignore him as burnt out staff struggled to complete double shifts.

Mr Dyer and his wife Margaret are yet to receive their booster shot, in spite of the promises of the Federal Government to have all aged care residents administered a third dose by January’s end.

Mr Dyer admits he feels forgotten in every direction. 

The number of care homes across the country struggling to manage COVID-19 outbreaks has risen to 1,200. In January alone around 500 aged care deaths were reported.

The battle to meet staffing quotas also persists, with 30% of the staffing resources unavailable due to isolation or sickness.

Both daughters, Ms McPherson and Ms Macfarlane, are removing their loved ones out of their respective aged care homes.

They are clear to highlight that they don’t place blame on any of the nurses or carers, saying they are trying their best in the worst circumstances, yet they are firm in conveying they believe the system has failed them and their loved ones.

Mr Dyer argues, “Remove lockdown from the whole scene of our care, it’s not one that’s humane.”

In good news, a spokesperson for Medical & Aged Care Group (MACG) contacted HelloCare and confirmed, “We are actually admitting the Dyers into one of our homes next week and we are looking forward to welcoming them into our family and providing them the care and support they deserve.”

Meanwhile, Mr McPherson’s aged care home continues to operate under lockdown, after five weeks and no firm end date in sight.

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  1. this is just too sad. there may be a controlled way to get fresh air and allow some family contact. heart breaking

  2. As a retired RN who has worked in aged care and as an elderly person of 81, I have conflicted feelings about this. The elderly deserve to spend their final years in peace and comfort and to be treated with respect and dignity. The staff are there to keep them well and safe and sometimes these two things are not compatible. As an elderly person, I would want to be given a choice. A choice to go out of my room, walk in the garden and take the risk of catching Covid. Ok, lock down the facility, but not the rooms.!! I would want to still at least to be able to interact with other residents and staff. There must be some way of making these compromises. I understand that from a health point of view, this is just so difficult,but jailing people in tiny rooms in their final years is heartbreaking. From a staff point of you, it is just so difficult to see the people in your care so distressed,depressed and hopeless. We can only hope that everyone gets vaccinated, that Researchers keep ahead of the changes and the Health Proffessionals get back to what they do best, helping their fellow man.


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