A woman has revealed she was left devastated after she was told waving to her 80-year-old father through his care home window was 'illegal' by staff.
Oriana Criscuolo, 46, from Stockport, wanted to drop off some treats for her father Attilio, who suffers from Parkinson's disease and dementia, at Bamford Grange care home earlier this month.
After handing over the supplies to the carer at the front door, she said that she was going to pop over to her dad's window to wave at him, but claims she was told it would be 'illegal' to do so.
A stunned Oriana then attempted to walk over to her father's ground-floor window, only to find the curtains had been shut, despite it being the middle of the day.
She has since tried to visit a second time, but her father's curtains have remained closed, revealing: 'It's just unbelievable. I cannot understand how care home staff – people who are being paid to care - have become so uncaring. Their behaviour is inhumane and cruel. It's beyond belief.'
Maria Percival at Four Seasons Health Care Group, the company that owns the home, has promised to investigate the matter.
Oriana Criscuolo, 46, from Stockport, has revealed she was left devastated after she was told waving to her 80-year-old father Attilio through his care home window was 'illegal' by staff
Oriana branded staff at the £1400-a-week care home 'inhumane and cruel' after they said she was not allowed to wave at her father through the glass
Oriana said she began dropping off treats for her father after growing increasingly concerned by his weight loss during the pandemic.
She explained: 'It's been difficult knowing what food to bring my dad because care home staff keep telling me he's not able to eat certain things due to him having trouble swallowing and suffering from choking fits.
'In the past, I've brought him home-made pasta dishes, cakes, biscuits and chocolate, which he tells me he rarely gets.
'When I've asked about this, the staff say he's not always able to eat the stuff I bring, but they never tell me what actually happens to the food he doesn't get. I'm guessing they must throw it away.'
Oriana said her father (both pictured), who suffers from dementia and has Parkinson's, has been left heartbroken over the waving ban
Oriana said she began dropping off treats for her father after growing concerned about his weight loss, but was told by staff that he cannot eat certain things due to choking fits
A stunned Oriana said she attempted to walk over to her father's ground-floor window, only to find the curtains had been shut, despite it being the middle of the day
This has been a worry for Air B&B host Oriana, because her father has lost a huge amount of weight since being admitted to the care home in March 2020 after a bout of pneumonia, dropping at one point from his usual 74 kgs to a dangerously low 40 kgs.
What are the rules around window visits at care homes?
According to the gov.uk website, as of 6 January, visiting care homes should be supported and enabled wherever it is possible to do so safely – in line with this guidance and within a care home environment that takes proportionate steps to manage risks.
All care homes, except in the event of an active outbreak, should seek to enable:
Visits should happen in the open air wherever possible (this might include under a cover such as an awning, gazebo, open-sided marquee etc.) For these visits:
Some providers have used temporary outdoor structures – sometimes referred to as ‘visiting pods’ – which are enclosed to some degree but are still outside the main building of the home. These can be used.
She said: 'The staff tell me my dad eats a lot and that he often has double portions so I don't know why the weight's falling off him.
'I made a formal complaint a few months ago and, since then, the weight is slowly going back on.
'He's now up to 50 kgs. I bring him extra food to help build him up. He's so skinny.'
Last Thursday, nobody knew that Oriana was planning to come but she didn't think it would be an issue.
She explained: 'I was out shopping and decided on a whim to pick up some bits for my dad. He's been getting pretty depressed at the home since the latest lockdown, so I try to pop by whenever I can.'
When Oriana has brought food for her dad in the past, she'd drop it at the front door, then stop by his window to give him a wave and she planned to do the same last week.
After handing over the supplies to the carer at the front door, she told the member of staff that she was going to pop over to her dad's window to wave at him.
The carer told her that the rules had changed and that visitors were no longer allowed to do that.
'I laughed at first,' Oriana recalled, 'and told the carer not to be silly. I thought she was joking.
'That's when the carer told me that if I went to wave at my dad, I'd be breaking the law – she actually suggested that waving at him through his window was illegal.'
The carer disappeared inside the home, and the care home manager came out to speak to Oriana.
Oriana said: 'The manager confirmed that waving through residents' window was against the law - and that I wasn't to do it under any circumstances.
'I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I was lost for words.'
The manager continued talking, explaining that it wasn't her decision to ban waving and that it was the local authority that had made the new rule.
'I just stared in disbelief,' confessed Oriana. 'The Covid restrictions at the home are hard enough to accept as it is, but this was insult to injury.
'I was feeling a bit frustrated by this stage so I angrily said 'b****cks to that – I'm going to wave at my dad!' and strode off across the car park.'
When Oriana reached the window of her dad's room, however, the curtains had been pulled tightly shut.
She said: 'I couldn't believe it. His curtains were drawn so I couldn't wave to him!
Attilio, who is originally from Italy, and who once appeared on TV's Homes Under The Hammer, is very disappointed not to have seen his beloved daughter
'There was no other reason for the curtains to be closed: it was the middle of the day! Even when residents have daytime naps, they don't close the curtains.'
The baffled mother left the care home grounds in a daze, explaining: 'I told a couple of friends about the incident and they said I should have filmed it. I realised they were right.
'I should have recorded everything – and I had my phone in my pocket - but I just didn't think of it. I was so shocked by what I was being told, it didn't cross my mind.'
Two days later, on Saturday afternoon, Oriana returned to £1400-a-week Bamford Grange and filmed the interaction she had with staff.
Oriana's father has been living in the care home since March 2020 after a bout of pneumonia (pictured together when Oriana was a baby)
In the video footage, Oriana can be seen asking a member of staff who's come to the front door whether it's OK to wave at relatives through their windows.
The staff member, dressed in a navy uniform with a red trim and sporting a blue surgical mask, replied: 'No, you have to book an appointment.'
Care home residents allowed one visitor inside from next month
From March 8, at the first stage of Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown, each care home resident will be able to nominate a regular indoor visitor.
These indoors visits are in addition to other visiting guidelines, which have been in effect for several months.
The nominated visitor:
It's at the discretion of the care home to allow more than one named visitor in exceptional circumstances.
These visits will be suspended if there's an outbreak of coronavirus in the care home.
Oriana has claimed this hasn't been the case on previous visits, saying: 'The carer was talking rubbish.
'I've had many window visits over the past year and have never once made an appointment: I've always just turned up and gone to my dad's window.'
In the clip, Oriana continued: 'So you can't even open the curtains so I can just say hi to my dad?'
The masked carer responded: 'We're not meant to, no.
Oriana calmly asked where that rule has come from.
'From Stockport Council,' the woman declared
She then asked why the council have any say in what happens at a private care home and the carer replied: 'Because they pay for his bed here.'
'No, they don't,' Oriana contradicted. 'My dad pays for his bed himself.'
The staff member insisted that the home is obliged to go by what the council says and, although Oriana argued that the new rule 'is not law', the woman in the mask shook her head.
She replied: 'I'm just the deputy manager: I just do as I'm told.'
She then said she had to go and turned away, pulling the door shut behind her.
The disgusted daughter then made another quick video to show where her dad's room is, pointing out that the curtains are closed once again.
'That's my dad's bedroom there,' she said, pointing to a ground floor window. 'And the curtains have been drawn now both times I've come here to wave to him... And I'm not allowed…'
On the subject of the 'no waving' rule, she added: 'I can't accept for a second that any local authority would come up with such pointless rule.'
Oriana has since contacted the Quality Care department at Stockport Council, who were unable to confirm whether or not the 'no waving' rule existed.
They told her the care home had informed them that they had closed her dad's curtain because she was filming.
According to Oriana, this is not true because she didn't take her phone out of her pocket during her original visit, saying: 'By lying like this, they have broken my trust.'
She has also had a video call with her dad since the incident.
Attilio, originally from Italy and who once appeared on TV's Homes Under The Hammer, is very disappointed not to have seen his beloved daughter.
The 46-year-old regularly drops treats and meals over to her father's care home and often waves to him from the carpark (pictured, Oriana as a baby with her father)
Oriana said her father has become confused as to why she can't wave to him through the glass pane anymore (left and right)
'We had a nice chat,' said Oriana, 'but he was very sad. He likes it when I wave to him and doesn't understand why I can't do that any more. To be honest, nor can I. It makes me want to cry.'
In December, the Manchester Evening News reported the Care Quality Commission deemed the facility to be in breach of regulations and putting its residents 'at risk of harm'.
At the time, the Four Seasons group said: 'The Covid-19 pandemic has created immense challenges for all organisations in the health and social care sectors and we continue to strive every day to protect everyone in our homes.
Maria Percival at Four Seasons Health Care Group, the company that owns the home, has promised to investigate the matter (above, Oriana as a child with her father)
'We deeply regret that Bamford Grange Care Home has fallen below the standards that the Care Quality Commission requires and that we expect.
'We fully accept the areas for improvement identified in the report and since the inspection have been working to address them.
'We are pleased that the report recognised the caring and respectful nature of our staff and the positive impact this has on our residents. As ever, their safety and wellbeing is our priority.'
Deadly toll of care homes ban: Halting visits was linked to 5,000 EXTRA dementia deaths in nursing units during first lockdown, figures reveal
More than 5,000 dementia patients died needlessly during the first lockdown – most of them in care homes, official figures have shown.
Between March 7 and May 1, when blanket visiting bans were in place, the toll was 52 per cent higher than normal.
Over the past five years an average of 10,345 Britons died from dementia in the same eight-week period, according to the Office for National Statistics.
But last year it was reported the figure hit 15,749 – meaning there were 5,404 excess and potentially avoidable deaths.
More than 5,000 dementia patients died needlessly during lockdown – most of them in care homes, official figures show. Stock picture
The fatalities were not related to Covid – and another 13,840 dementia sufferers died from the virus from March to June. Up to 80 per cent of these 5,000 excess dementia deaths were in care homes.
Experts believe the prolonged social isolation in lockdown is likely to have contributed.
Isolation has been shown to accelerate the progression of dementia – for many the best medicine is the chance to hold the hand of the person they love.
Julia Jones, of the dementia rights organisation John's Campaign, said: 'Because dementia is neurodegenerative, visits are essential to promote wellbeing and provide stimulation that helps to prevent their condition deteriorating.
'By taking away their visits, you are damaging these people clinically. You are taking away their medicine. It is an essential part of their care, just as essential as food or drugs, and you wouldn't take that away.'
The Mail has seen a major study – led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine – which found that many dementia sufferers have stopped eating or drinking at some point since the pandemic began.
Up to 80 per cent of these 5,000 excess dementia deaths were in care homes. Stock picture
The study said isolation had 'enormous impacts on residents' – 28 per cent of care home residents had reduced the amount they ate, often leading to weight loss and frailty. It also found that 84 per cent of site managers reported a low mood among their residents, with almost all saying this was due to lack of visitors.
Of the 411,000 care home residents in the UK, 70 per cent have dementia. Research by the Alzheimer's Society shows that more than four-fifths of people with dementia have suffered a decline in memory, concentration and the ability to perform daily tasks during the pandemic.
Half reported increased memory loss and concentration problems. More than one in four said reading and writing were more difficult, while one in three said speaking and listening had become worse.
Overall, one in four of those who died from Covid-19 between March and June had dementia.
And more than 25,000 dementia patients died in March and April alone – twice the figure from previous years. Normally, the Office for National Statistics would expect 11,800 dementia patients to die over this two-month period, again based on the average figures for the past five years. Although many succumbed to the virus itself, thousands of others are feared to have died from conditions brought on by inadequate medical care and a lack of social contact.
Charities have been contacted by hundreds of relatives who say loved ones are going downhill.
Professor Alistair Burns, NHS England national clinical director for dementia and older people's mental health, said: 'The extraordinary events of this year have been challenging for older people and no one should feel ashamed, reluctant or worried about asking for help.'