ELDERLY people in Barnsley’s care homes are becoming ‘invisible and forgotten’ despite restrictions easing, claim families who have become cut off from their relatives.

Government guidance has now relaxed meaning there are no direct restrictions on visiting care home residents.

However, residents who contract Covid, or have been in a ‘high-risk’ environment such as hospital, must isolate for ten days.

And if there are two confirmed cases, that’s considered an ‘outbreak’ and indoor visits must stop except for particular cases such as end-of-life care.

The situation can lead to a series of ‘rolling lockdowns’ as Covid spreads through a home.

Laraine Whitmore’s 90-year-old mum Beryl Elrington has Alzheimer’s disease and is living at Oakwood Grange in Royston.

“Because they’re elderly, they’re not very attractive members of society, they’re invisible and forgotten,” said Laraine, 69, from Barnsley town centre but recently moved to Beverley.

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“A lot of homes are on rolling lockdowns, and they have been since before Christmas.

“It won’t just be this particular home, but it is a fact that different homes have applied the rules in different ways.

“I’m not condemning the home or saying it’s different to anywhere else.

“Everybody else has moved on, but homes are following the rules.”

One person can be registered as ‘essential caregiver’ meaning they can visit more regularly, even in the event of an outbreak.

“My sister is the essential caregiver, so she’s had the pressure of being the only one who can see mum, and I’ve had the pressure of not being able to see her at all,” added Laraine.

Beryl, from Cudworth, also has three adult grandchildren who last saw her on her 90th birthday - when the family were allowed to meet in the car park.

“It’s sad because memories of her are fading - they have no recent memories,” she said.

“That’s tragic. Feeling close to her is getting more difficult.

“It’s a breach of human rights not to allow people in care homes to come out, or let any of their loved ones in, if there’s a lockdown.

“If my mum had a say, she would of course want to see her loved ones.

“If they said she could catch Covid, she’d still want to see them.

“They do administer very good care. But we can’t just go in and check my mum is being cared for.

“I’m not accusing them of not doing that, but it’s based on trust, which isn’t good when we’re paying so much money.”

A campaign, ‘Rights for Residents’, was formed in September 2020 to push for residents to be given a legal right to contact.

Pat Chesney, whose 96-year-old mum Betty is in Highstone Mews, said she believed current guidelines are turning families against home staff.

“We are battling each other, which is very sad,” said the 64-year-old from Shafton.

“My mum’s had her jabs and booster, what else can they do to start living a normal life? We need to move on.

“People say those in care homes are vulnerable, but even without Covid they’d be considered vulnerable.

“We’re frustrated with people telling us what to do, and keeping us apart.”

Dawn Paley, manager at Oakwood Grange, said: “We do, of course, understand that the past few years have been frustrating for residents, families and friends and we have welcomed the most recent changes.”

She said there was no limit on length of visits or numbers of visitors, as long as ‘safe visiting can be maintained’.

“However, in line with the latest government guidance, if we have a Covid-19 outbreak of more than two cases, we’re legally required to close our care homes to visitors for 14 days,” she added.

“Visitors coming inside our care homes will still need to have a negative lateral flow test and to wear a mask.

“In addition, we’re actively encouraging all visitors that are eligible to have a vaccine booster, if they haven’t already, to keep our residents and colleagues safe.”

Dan Jarvis, MP for Barnsley Central, said: "I entirely understand and share the concerns that care home residents and their relatives have raised about the current restrictions on care home visits.

"Whilst it is right that robust infection control measures are in place to keep vulnerable residents safe, this must be carefully balanced against the ability of families to see loved ones."