Learning disabilities: The pain of Covid's impact on respite care

By Tara Mills
BBC News NI

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Media caption,
"I spend half my life singing to her"

Families of adults with learning disabilities have spoken of the pain and difficulty caused by Covid restrictions on respite care.

Some families have been asked to leave their loved ones in care full time, unable to see them.

The other option is to bring them home full time, which is putting enormous pressure on some families.

Maura Turley, who is 74 and is looking after her daughter Kerri, 49, said it has been "stressful" and "frightening".

She said: "I would have expected them to have some sort of day-care, even if its only two mornings a week."

The Southern Health Trust said anyone with concerns about care should contact it.

Kerri has a severe learning disability and normally spends four days a fortnight in a respite centre, which her family says is "fantastic".

Since lockdown, Kerri has not been able to stay at the centre, she has only had three overnight stays in the past nine months.

Maura, from Mayobridge in County Down said it had been challenging trying to keep her daughter entertained without the visits to the centre.

She added: "Just to give me and Kerri some sort of relief from this isolation that we have.

"I'm trying to entertain her continually, because I spend half my life singing to her, just trying to amuse her and it's very difficult."

"I don't know what I'm going to do for the rest of my life if this keeps on for another year. I don't think Kerri and I will be here.

"I don't want to live like this anymore."

'They don't understand'

Maura's other daughter Cathie Smith said friends have asked the family why they don't just put Kerri into full time care.

Cathie said: "Would you put your three-year-old in, would you just leave your three year old and not come back for them, not be able to see them?

"This is the part that people don't understand. They don't understand how difficult it is, the impact it's having on everybody."

Image caption,
Cathie Smith said people can struggle to understand the situation

The family said keeping Kerri at home was their only option, but now it seems to be never-ending.

In a statement the Southern Trust said: "Whilst we are unable to comment on any individual, we encourage anyone with concerns about their care and treatment to contact us so that we can directly respond to those concerns."