Sky News political correspondent Joe Pike has spoken to the carer who looked after his husband in his final years about her concerns over coronavirus.
Joe. I’m terrified.
I had texted my friend Andrea. She runs a small home care company in Edinburgh and had cared for my late husband Gordon in his final years.
I hope you and the team are keeping OK through all of this, I messaged.
Must be incredibly tough and scary. Sending lots of love.
Andrea’s reply was long. And it stopped me in my tracks.
She was scared that if her staff became infected with COVID-19, there might be consequences for those they look after.
The whole system is going to collapse if carers in the community can’t do our jobs, she said.
If we can’t look after our clients, they have nowhere to go. They’ll be left to die. And that’s the reality of it.
When I first met Andrea in our Edinburgh home six years ago, Gordon and I were both pretty wary.
She would only be visiting a few times a week, but the introduction of carers was a big change. It takes time to adjust to a stranger in your home.
Gordon had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND), a degenerative and terminal neurological condition, at the age of 29.
Once a gymnast who competed for Scotland, over the years his muscles gradually weakened and he lost the ability to walk.
By the last months of Gordon’s life, carers visited us six times a day, he used an electric wheelchair, and would drink through a straw.
Some with MND lose the ability to talk, eat, and eventually breathe.
Yet it was amazing how fast our attitudes towards carers changed.
Once suspicious, soon we embraced their support, which allowed Gordon to live life to the full.
After a few weeks I wouldn’t blink if I came out of the shower in a towel and someone I’d never met was cleaning the hob.
Gordon’s carers become our friends. Andrea was a guest at our wedding – in a slinky silver dress – and was the third wheel on our honeymoon to Paris.
We spent hundreds of hours in each other’s company. And when Gordon suddenly died, that stopped.
So when she texted with concerns about coronavirus, I asked if we could pay the team a visit. It was an emotional day.
Dressed in protective gloves, we visited a couple of the company’s clients at home.
One woman, a former professor named Barbara, was living with motor neurone disease, the same condition that killed my husband.
MND means her speech is now slurred, and difficult to understand. But one person who can translate for Barbara is her carer Laura who visits four times a day.
They were both in tears as Laura communicated Barbara’s fears of catching coronavirus.
Doctors would end up having to choose who would live and who wouldn’t, Laura said.
And she knows she would be one of the ones that wouldn’t. And that shouldn’t be happening in this day and age.
Laura was quick to add some reassurance.
But it’s not going to. Because we’re on the ball. OK?
This was all the proof needed that home carers do far more than feed, wash and take their clients to the bathroom.
More than 800,000 people across the UK rely on home visits. Carers provide company and emotional support which is more important than ever.
For now, the social care system is keeping pressure off the NHS, but if schools close or the virus spreads amongst carers, tough decisions will need to be made.
Barbara and Laura hope that when the system is under the most strain, they won’t be forgotten.
(c) Sky News 2020: Coronavirus: Care worker fears system could collapse over virus fears