Woman shares heartbreaking lockdown Skype call to dying mother as Downing Street ‘partied away’

‘That video will haunt me for the rest of my life’

A woman says she will never forgive the Government for ‘partying away’ while she was kept apart from her beloved mum as she lay ‘alone and deteriorating’ from dementia in a care home.

Jane Smith has shared a heartbreaking Skype call between her and mother Rita in a bid to highlight the devastation for relatives who sacrificed precious moments with their dying loved ones as further ‘lockdown party’ scandals emerge.

The distressing footage shows Jane’s mum breaking down in tears after she recognises her daughter’s voice as she calls to her: “I love you mum - I’m still here.”

The stress of fighting to see her mum over various lockdowns was so debilitating, Jane believes it contributed to her breast cancer diagnosis just before her mum passed away last year.

The 66-year-old from Thornbury says she ‘will never stop talking’ about what happened and is demanding the Government ‘instead focus their energy’ on a mandate that will allow relatives access to their loved ones in care homes by law.

“It’s disgusting to see the way the Government are treating the people who gave birth to us, looked after us and fought in the war for us,” Jane told BristolWorld.

“Relatives have been made so ill by everything that’s gone on over the last few years.

“I was suffering nightmares. I’d wake up in the night screaming, thinking about mum and how I could help her.

“I was diagnosed with reactive depression and later I was told I had breast cancer, which I’m putting down to the stress of fighting to gain access to my own mother.

“I had one surgery a few weeks before mum passed away and the second surgery took place five days after her funeral.

Speaking to BristolWorld outside her home, Jane Smith broke down in tears as she relived painful memories of her mum in a care home during lockdown.

“I’ve had counselling, but it will all haunt me forever, and my story is just one of many.”

Jane spoke of a happy childhood in Devon with her ‘wonderful’ mum who was a church organist and ‘filled the house with music’.

A ‘forward thinking’ person, Rita also worked after she got married as a disability resettlement officer for the Department of Employment - unusual for the time.

“She didn’t let anyone get the better of her and she was always calling out injustice,” said Jane. “I guess that’s where I get it from.”

Rita was diagnosed with dementia in 2012 and was moved to a care home on the outskirts of Bristol after her condition worsened in 2017.

“I would see her for around three hours every day, but when the first lockdown came in those three hours went down to nothing,” said Jane.

“That was expected as the whole country was going through it - but as everything else came out of lockdown, the care home didn’t.”

The issue, Jane says, is that no national framework for care homes was ever rolled out.

The Government has issued guidelines on visitation - but care homes are not mandated to follow these guidelines.

Rita in happier times.

“We were only allowed a certain amount of Skype calls or phone calls per week and mum couldn’t cope with them,” Jane said.

“I applied to be an essential care giver (ECGs) so I could see her every day, but this was denied.

“The Government had allowed relatives to enter care homes by becoming ECGs but not made it law, so there was nothing I could do.”

During the third national lockdown in January 2021, Rita’s bed was wheeled up to the window so that Jane could wave at her through the glass while she was sat outside in the rain and snow.

“She slept through the whole thing,” said Jane.

“Seeing someone you love deteriorate like that but not being able to talk to them, I can’t describe it.

“It's the worst thing you can ever imagine.

“You can't hug or touch them. They can't hear you. They don't even know you're there.

“Mum looked after me, I couldn’t look after her. She paid £50,000 a year for her care, for this.”

Rita was later moved to a second care home which finally allowed Jane to be become an ECG, feeding her mum and bringing back happy memories by showing her family pictures.

They spent three precious weeks together before Rita passed away.

The trauma sustained from the events of the past two years still lives with Jane as she undergoes cancer treatment, but the revelation thatBoris Johnson attended a Downing Street party during lockdown has exacerbated her anger.

“To hear they set the rules, then ignored them,” said Jane. “The arrogance of it. The smirking of Boris Johnson.

“He’s not fit to be our Prime Minister and I’m so glad there is cross-party calls for him to resign.

“He needs to go. He doesn’t have a shred of decency.

Rita Hookway on her 90th birthday. She was a church organist and pianist who ‘filled the house with music’ was Jane was a child.

“Supposedly there was a party at Christmas. Well, it was my mum’s last Christmas. I didn’t get to see her while they were all partying away.”

A retired pharmacist who worked in the NHS for more than 40 years, Jane said she’ll continue to fight for justice for those in the same position.

“I’m part of a Facebook and Twitter group called @CareUnlock for other families who have been through or are going through this, and some of them say they haven’t been allowed to visit their loved ones for two years,” said Jane.

“Imagine that, when the life expectancy for care home residents is 18 to 24 months.

“40,000 plus elderly people have died from Covid in care homes while around 176,000 have died from other causes, especially isolation.

“They don’t want to be locked away, but want to live out their final days in happiness.

“The Government don’t see that during the pandemic, dementia patients lost the will to live.

“They stopped eating and drinking because they thought their loved ones had abandoned them - and they died.

“And it’s not just the elderly, young people with various illnesses or learning disabilities are in care homes too.

“I can’t bring mum back now. But it’s time the Government started looking after the vulnerable in our society.”

BristolWorld has approached the Department of Health and Social Care for comment.