A HEARTBROKEN son has told how he can only speak to his elderly mother during a visit to her care home through a wire fence and has only been allowed one indoor visit in nine months, which has resulted in her feeling suicidal.

Brian Halliday is the main carer for his mother Agnes, 89, who was diagnosed with dementia five years ago.

The great-grandmother became a resident at Eskgreen care home in Musselburgh one week before lockdown in March.

She was previously at East Lothian Community Hospital in Haddington, with most of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren living in East Lothian.

Brian, 58, said that prior to going into the care home, Agnes, a former cleaner, home help and mum of three, was “absolutely terrified that the family were going to leave her there”, despite his reassurances.

A few days later, lockdown struck and about four months passed before he was allowed to visit her.

It is thought that Eskgreen took early preventative measures which resulted in the home avoiding any cases of Covid-19 during lockdown – however, this was not able to be confirmed by East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership, which oversees the running of the home.

Brian, of Niddrie Mill, Edinburgh, said that when he next went to visit his mother, who was widowed in 2008, he was “deeply heartbroken” at what he saw, saying that Agnes “looked terrified and shaky” and had lost a lot of weight.

During the first 15 minutes of every visit that summer, with a window separating the pair, Brian said that his mum “begged” him to help her commit suicide and it was “all she spoke about”.

His brother and sister have also reported similar experiences, with the trio said to be allowed one 30-minute visit a week between them.

He added: “Fence visits were the best I could get and since then mum has got worse.

“She was having really emotional outbursts, has lost a huge amount of weight and has broken her hips twice.

“Mum looked 10-15 years younger when she went in and could walk pretty well, but now she looks 10-15 years older and has obviously got serious mental health issues that need addressed.

“She’s deteriorated so quickly, it’s horrible to see. My biggest fear is that she feels she was abandoned. I’m constantly living in anxiety and fear that they will stop my visits and I won’t get to see her again.

“They said they don’t need to give me the visits and called them extras; they made it out to be a favour and said that if I didn’t go along with the fence visits they could stop me seeing her all together.

“Thirty-minute visits are not good for her: I spend half the time talking her out of taking her own life.

“She has no contacts outside of the family, it’s devastating for her being in there.”

Brian said the only time his mum would eat was when he was with her.

He has only been able to visit her indoors once during her time at the home – and he said that the half-hour visit in October passed in what felt like five minutes.

He said: “You could see the tears and terror in her face as they were taking her away. I can’t get her expression out of my mind.

“She broke down and was asking them if she could give me a cuddle but they took her away like a prisoner and threw me out of the building.

“I’ve not been back to see her, I can’t put her through that or me. They’ve actually stopped visits all together at the moment.

“My mum won’t be here next year; the family just want to spend some time with her before she slips further into the dementia or dies.”

He says that when Agnes broke her hip after a fall eight weeks ago, he spent four hours in hospital with her while waiting for X-ray results, as he is her main carer and someone needed to sit with her when answering doctor’s questions.

He said that Agnes “couldn’t even hold a conversation” throughout the entire hospital visit.

The whole ordeal has left Brian, who lives on his own, feeling mentally tired and has had a detrimental impact on his sleeping pattern. He was in the process of setting up his own marketing business but has had to put his work on pause and has been signed off sick.

Brian has contacted Musselburgh MSP Colin Beattie about the issue and released the images of his mother through Care Campaign for the Vulnerable, feeling that he has exhausted his efforts to visit his mother.

A complaint has also been made to the Care Inspectorate.

An East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership spokesperson said: “We know how difficult the Covid restrictions are for relatives, but most are very supportive because they know the restrictions are vital in keeping residents and staff safe and well. All our ELHSCP care homes do everything they can under the Covid guidance to ensure that relatives and residents are able to meet in person, by phone and online, and also keep up to date with life in the homes on social media.

“Our care home staff regularly update nominated family members on how their relatives are doing.

“All of our care homes offer meetings in pleasant surroundings, indoors and outdoors, and work with families to ensure that they are able to meet regularly, as long as they can conform to Covid guidance.

“We can’t comment on individual cases, but would like to assure people that we always do everything in our power to keep families in touch, whilst also making sure that our residents stay safe and healthy.”

Mr Beattie said: “I can confirm that a constituent has recently been in touch with my office in relation to this and that I have spoken to him directly regarding this matter.

“Naturally, I am very concerned at what I have been told relating to his mother’s situation, and these concerns are in the process of being taken forward.”