A New Zealand daughter shares the suffering endured by her elderly parents, and herself, during the NZ Covid response

My Parents were post war immigrants from Holland.

In March 2020 they were residing at the XXXXX rest home in XXXXX, aged 94 (mum) & 90 (dad).

In Feb 2019 Dad had been admitted to the Resthome as he was suffering from dementia and Mum was unable to cope with him in their Independent living Apartment (at the rest home) any longer.

This was a very traumatic time for them both as they had rarely been apart throughout their 65 years of marriage.

Fortunately for them they were still in very close proximity to each other….for mum it was just a short trip down the hall, into the lift, up one level and down the corridor to dad’s room.

Mum would do this trip several times daily and the staff would often bring dad down to the apartment to spend time with mum which allowed them some semblance of life as it had been.

March 24th was Dad’s 90th birthday.

It was also the day that the PM announced that NZ would go into nationwide lockdown at midnight the next night.

No celebration for dad’s birthday.

Not even a visit from mum.

For several years mum had been receiving carer support 3 times a week from an independent agency.

As of March 24th this support ceased, and was replaced with maybe once a week visit from a rest home worker covered from head to toe in “protective” wear with only a set of eyes visible. This person would march into mums apartment, quickly wash mum in the shower and leave as fast as possible.

This person was mums only connection to life for the duration of the lockdown.

This was not CARE.

Mum was very traumatised at being separated from dad and tried several times to go and see him.

The last time she went into the lift she hadn’t been informed by rest home staff that they had disabled her fob and she was stuck in the lift for some time not knowing why it wouldn’t go upstairs and not knowing how to get the doors to open.

This was also very traumatising for her.

Around this time mum said to me that she would rather die earlier than be separated from dad and so isolated from life “this is not living”

All meals were left on the floor outside her door and she was unable to have any shopping apart from medication delivered.

The following is a letter I sent to her Doctor:

 

15 April 2020

Hi XXXX, Mum has been in total isolation for the past fortnight on the promise of being able to have dad return for visits to their apartment. She has only seen the caretaker who rescued her from the lift once and when she found her kitchen sink was leaking. She has no meals delivered, no cleaner and no one to help her shower. She does have groceries delivered. As you will know this will be extremely detrimental to mums mental and physical health but she was hanging in there so she could be reunited with dad. Last Friday mum was told that dad would come Monday, Wednesday and Friday for a few hours.

On Saturday night mum struggled to swallow her pills in the middle of the night. She woke on Sunday morning 2 hours after her normal waking time and felt awful. She had pain in her chest and oesophagus and loss of bladder control. She felt she needed antibiotics. The freezing in her fingers is also getting worse and is now in both hands. She rang upstairs but no answer so she rang her alarm.The nurse she spoke with said she needed to contact her own dr. (basically they wiped their hands of her) She rang XXXX St A&E where she had gone a year ago on a weekend and they started her on the Oxynorm. After lots of waiting, several phone calls and interrogation they said unless she came in to see them they would not prescribe her antibiotics. Mum was adamant she didn’t want to go there as it would mean breaching lockdown and she would have to wait for another 2 weeks before she could see dad.

What mum hasn’t taken fully on board is that if she leaves the premises she can’t return as the rest home have inactivated her fob and she would be locked out. She can’t even come to see you. The rest home didn’t tell her they had done this and she only found out one day last week when, after getting frustrated that nobody was answering her phone calls she decided to go upstairs and see XXXX, the manager personally, and got stuck in the lift. She has never been shown what to do in case of emergency in the lift and her stress levels prevented her from rational thought for several minutes.

Eventually she pressed the button for the carpark (ground floor) for which she didn’t need the fob for, and called out for the caretaker who was in his office who helped her back to the apartment. Anyway, last night (Sunday) mum said she was feeling better but she was still urinating a small amount every half an hour. I have just had a very distressed mum on the phone telling me that XXX had just phoned her and XXX said she had received a call earlier from the ministry saying all rest homes were to increase isolation measures even further and dad would not be able to visit her until the end of lockdown.

Mum is absolutely shattered. Mum currently thinks the end of lockdown will be in 2 weeks and has no idea that lockdown for resthomes will be at least another 3 months. How a 93 year old woman can survive a 3 month lockdown in total isolation is beyond me. I find this indescribably cruel. I feel she has been pushed off a cliff by the rest home, and MOH ? Had mum been made aware that this was to be the final months of her life (in isolation without dad) l’m sure she would have chosen to come and live with us. I will certainly be laying a complaint about mums treatment at the other end of this. Can you please send mum through her Pharmacy some antibiotics for her bladder infection or the chest infection she will certainly get soon from the stress she is currently under. Many thanks,

Meanwhile dad was confined to his room and he didn’t understand why.

His inability to see mum at all was traumatising for him and also anybody he did see was unrecognisable as a person, let alone a familiar face.

This was not CARE.

His deterioration hastened and he was moved from their rest home to another rest home that had a specialised dementia care unit on 5 Feb 2021.

He passed away a year later on 13th Feb 2022.

I was not at his bedside as I’m unjabbed and my brother and mother were both jabbed and I didn’t want to cause a drama by turning up . I live 4 hours drive away. I later found out that my brother hadn’t even told my mother that her beloved husband was dying and my brother had gone home for a sleep when dad passed. He was cremated the next day. I was devastated, still am.

 

 

On Dec 30th 2020 Mum had a fall outside her apartment and fractured her shoulder. She was very fortunate that a passerby on the footpath 1 level below her heard her calls for help as most people in the rest home, including staff were not moving around the property as much as they had previous to lockdown.

After staying in hospital overnight she was discharged to the rest home for respite care as appropriate care was unable to be provided for her in her apartment. This was because resthomes were still under lockdown restrictions.

So for 6 weeks mum was not able to be in her own home which was traumatising for her. Fortunately I was able to spend the 6 weeks with her and I stayed in her apartment and spent time with her every day supporting her and taking her to her apartment so she could have some sense of normality and know that she would be able to return home eventually.

After the 6 weeks she was fortunately feeling confident enough to able to return home and follow up support from a physio was arranged. She was also able to have her personal carer come again to help her shower etc.

 

 

Mum had her first Covid vaccination on 15 Oct 2021.

5 days later on the 20 Oct 2021 mum collapsed onto her walker and spent

2 nights in hospital and then 3 weeks in MXXXXX Continuing Care hospital in XXXXXX in respite care as she was unable to return home because support services were prevented from being provided in her home.

Mum was very distressed at being unable to be at home and she found the XXXXXX hospital not at all conducive to her recovery.

After the 3 weeks she was so traumatised that when the rest home where her apartment is told her she could move into the rest home she readily agreed and gave up on her independence.

Her discharge notes state:

“During Level 3, some supports have paused IDT assessed time in Concare may be appropriate.”

When mum returned to the resthome she endured a further 2 weeks isolation.

 

On the 30th Dec 2021, 10 weeks after mums first covid Vaccination she suffered a heart attack.

I believe the vaccination was the cause of the heart attack as mum had 2 weeks prior to the vaccination been examined by her Dr who told her that her heart was in top condition.

There is no history whatsoever of any heart issues in Mum’s wider family.

So this heart attack was completely out of the blue.

The heart medications mum was prescribed left her feeling continually dizzy and affected her mobility to such a degree that she spent most the remainder of her life (almost 2 years) shut in her room, in bed, with the lights off.

 

Mum had a further hospital visit on 27th March 2022 after she choked on her lunch. Mum told me that the Dr at the hospital asked her if she wanted to be resuscitated. She spent 2 nights in hospital and then another week of isolation on her return to the rest home.

After all this mums spirit was very low.

 

8th April 2022

Email from me to the Resthome Manager:

“Hi XXXX

I’m a bit concerned about mum.

She hasn’t been her usual self since her corridor went into isolation and then the choking episode and then further isolation on her return from hospital.

She admits to having severe depression and appears so disconnected and distraught that her usual 45 min phone conversations with me are down to 5 mins.

She says the staff don’t come promptly when she presses her buzzer and that’s very distressing for her when she needs her pain relief.

I find it ridiculous that she can’t have 2 paracetamol on hand for her 6 am dose. She can hardly overdose on that and it’s absurd to think that another resident would come into her room and take her 2 paracetamol.

I’m certain she would hear anyone entering her room even if she was asleep.”

 

Because staff were so overwhelmed by all the additional covid regimes implemented in the rest home for the apparent ‘care’ of the residents there were lots of basic ‘cares’ that were overlooked.

For mum, one of these was her podiatry care which was overlooked for 7 months.

 

 

3 months before mum passed away, the rest home was once again in lockdown, on 28th Sept 2023, because of an outbreak of ‘Covid’ in mums wing.

All services and any contact was stopped and food was quickly brought into her room with staff in PPE gear.

The food was very basic and on paper plates with wooden cutlery , which mum was unable to use. I purchased cutlery for her use to be kept in her room. She was able to wash the cutlery in her bathroom, but the staff soon removed these from her room.

I feel there was no thought gone into the practicalities of a 96 year old woman struggling with wooden cutlery.

She had asked the staff for proper cutlery and was refused.

She was also shouted at if she tried to leave her room.

Apparently mum also tested positive for ‘Covid’ though she had no symptoms beyond feeling tired and a runny nose.

As I have seen a Kiwifruit test positive with a RATS test I’m very sceptical that mum actually had ‘Covid’.

Mum passed away on Xmas day 2023 and I was with her for the whole week before her final breath.

She had been ready to go since dad went so it was a blessing really.

She wasn’t really ‘living ‘anymore, just surviving in the dark, in constant pain.

I can write about this now as mum had not wanted me to speak out while she was alive as she felt it would affect her treatment in the rest home if I complained.

 

All Resthome residents endured lockdowns much longer than the general public and to what benefit?

I do not know .

Residents went through hell; they were tortured.

They lost their dignity, their sovereignty and their right to informed consent.

They were isolated, abused, humiliated and treated worse than we would accept as humane in the treatment of animals.