I am in coronavirus limbo. I live in Dorset with my wife, while my elderly father is in a care home over 130 miles away in Worcestershire. It’s quite rightly locked down and not allowing visitors, but after cancelling a visit to him in March, I worry that I’ve missed my last chance to see him.
My father is an extremely intelligent man. His family wasn’t rich, but Dad got a rare scholarship to a private school and afterwards worked his way up through farming jobs until he was a director. You can just tell how bright he is when you speak to him – he has an incredibly dry wit even in his late 80s.
But a few years ago, he started showing signs of decline. He had a number of falls and became confused, which we later found out were symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Our family decided to move him into a care home close to his wife (my stepmother) and my brother.
I try and visit him about once a month, driving up from Dorset and staying the night in a hotel so I can also see my mother and brother. My brother lives much closer to Dad, so he goes in to see him twice a week.
I was planning on making my monthly visit to Dad on March 19, just before lockdown started. The care home was already taking some precautions by then: you had to ring in advance to book your visit and avoid the communal areas of the home.
But as the trip came closer, I decided to cancel, even though we weren’t yet in lockdown. The Government was advising us only to do essential journeys, and I just thought I couldn’t justify driving more than 130 miles to the Midlands.
Even though the care home said it would be all right, I didn’t want to chance it with Dad. He’s in his late 80s and also has diabetes, so I doubt he would survive coronavirus if he got it. I also had to think of the risk the trip could pose to my 74-year-old wife, especially when she is still recovering from an operation she had at the end of last year. I wouldn’t have wanted to bring the virus home to her.
I was sad, but not devastated, as I naively thought the threat of coronavirus would lift relatively soon. I rebooked the hotel for a mid-June visit. But now I’m not so sure I’ll be able to get there then either. Having cancelled my trip in accordance with Government guidelines, I did feel aggrieved that there has been at least one Cabinet minister who has driven similar distances to see his family during lockdown.