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Never have I been so glad to see my mother, as I have been these last weeks. I could meet my dear mother in a modern building, sitting around a table, eating chocolates - even if parted by a glass wall and chatting through a sound system.

After six weeks of complete physical distancing, I had started to fear that I would perhaps never see my 91-year-old mother again.

Many elderly people living in homes with full care, for one reason or another, are now in the same situation. Their situation differs, in my opinion, dramatically from those living independently, precisely because of the missing option to make decisions about their own lives. 

If you live independently, you may of course also need particular protection from catching this terrible disease. Therefore, extra-strong precautions are indeed in place and very much needed for all 70+ persons. But when you live independently, you can, after all, decide if and how to organize safe meetings with your loved ones when they are apparently healthy - yet keeping a distance - on the balcony, sitting in the garden, or just taking a walk. In care homes, all visits have been barred completely.

Covid-19 is a serious health threat to all. The risk of falling seriously ill is exacerbated with age and with the existence of other underlying health issues. The virus is contagious even before a person feels sick, or has very weak symptoms. This makes it harder when speaking about protecting the elderly living in care homes. In care homes, there are important common spaces, common dining and socializing. Persons with memory issues need care in carrying out their daily private hygiene, dressing, and house chores.

But most importantly, they also need caregivers and other people around them - often constantly. When you lose yourself, you do not remember where you are, where your room is, or if it is morning or evening - you need trusted, familiar people around to provide the feeling of safety and trust.

But on top of this, you also need your loved ones. Even when you do not remember your family members in their right capacity, you certainly recognize the ones you love and the ones you feel that you belong to. The feeling of belonging together, being close, and being loved are immensely important for any person.

An elderly mother with memory disease, treasures and needs those feelings more than most. She needs them to have a meaning in her life, to feel deep happiness in her day. She differs from others in that she cannot often remember the last meeting if it does not happen often and regularly, and she cannot live on the expectations of a coming rendezvous and dream about them in advance. 

That is why I feel so much joy when the care home Wilhelmiina has organized a safe visiting cottage, where we can be together, laugh, and eat chocolate - be it divided by a glass wall. All persons in care need to be granted at least the same possibility to meet their loved ones. A phone call is not enough. And when summer comes, we need to be able to meet safely, with a distance also outside, in a garden or taking a walk. This is necessary for making life meaningful.

I am so grateful for all that is being done on behalf of my mother by carers in her home. I also do not want to endanger any of the other elderly people living in the same care unit. Still, I feel that isolating elderly people totally from their dearest family, will have serious and harmful consequences on their wellbeing and health in the long-term. It also crosses the line when speaking about the human rights of elderly people and other persons living in institutions.

 

Eva Biaudet, Member of Parliament, Swedish People's Party 

This article was written for MP Talk, a regular column from the Helsinki Times in which Members of Parliament are encouraged to contribute their thoughts and opinions. All opinions voiced are entirely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the Helsinki Times. 

Adam Oliver Smith - HT (Ed.)

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