Coronavirus: Dad's virus death in care home was 'traumatic'

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media captionLinda Verlaque: "My dad had a way of letting me know through the dementia how much he loved me."

The daughter of a care home resident who died from suspected coronavirus has told the BBC care staff are doing the best they can, but the death of her father was traumatic.

Bill Campbell, 86, had dementia and was being cared for at Erskine Park care home in Bishopton.

Originally thought to be a chest infection, he developed a cough and high temperature and his condition deteriorated.

He died on Easter Sunday.

His daughter, Linda Verlaque, has praised the care home staff for "going above and beyond" to look after him and for "doing the best with what they have".

New figures released on Wednesday by the National Records of Scotland suggested a quarter of Scottish deaths linked to Covid-19 have occurred in care homes.

Of 962 deaths registered where the virus was mentioned on the death certificate, 25% were in care homes - a total of 237 lives lost.

image copyrightLinda Verlaque
image captionBill Campbell, 86, died on Sunday morning after contracting suspected coronavirus.

Mrs Verlaque told the BBC she was grateful she was allowed in to say goodbye to her father, but had to wear personal protective equipment (PPE).

She said: "Right up to the very last minute it was doubtful that I would even be allowed to come in."

A week earlier she was told her father had a chest infection. He was put into isolation and she saw him on a video call. She was not worried.

However, she received a call last Thursday and she said she knew things had changed.

"I could tell things weren't going as they expected. A decision was made for me to see him. I had on all the gloves, apron and and mask to make sure there was a barrier between us.

"He was still OK. He was really unwell but he took my hand and he had a way even through the dementia of letting me know how much he loved me. He pulled my hand to his face and kissed it."

'So much compassion'

Mrs Verlaque was asked back the following day.

She said: "He was very distressed. Because I am a nurse in the community I had no illusions as to when the end of life is near.

"So we put in place end-of-life care. On Saturday he was very comfortable. Our children couldn't get in to see him so we had them write letters individually which we read out to him.

"He kept holding on and then around two o'clock I knew it was near and the nurse in charge and came through and we just talked to him about his life and my mum and everything we could fit in until he passed in the early hours of Easter Sunday. It was very peaceful."

Bill, a former merchant navy engineer, would normally have had his friends and residents pay their respects as he was taken from the care home by undertakers.

But the reality of coronavirus restrictions turned it into a heartbreakingly different experience.

Mrs Varlaque said: "The staff showed so much compassion and I want to thank them.

"But when my dad passed it was horrific because the funeral undertakers had to come in - in the hazmat gear and goggles - and instead of having people surrounding me and giving me a hug to say everything was all right, instead everyone was just standing there and we were watching my dad being taken away, which was traumatic.

"My dad was taken out in the middle of the night with two people dressed in hazmat gear. It was horrible."

image copyrightLinda Verlaque
image captionBill Campbell was being cared for at Erskine Park care home in Bishopton, Renfrewshire

Returning home she had to wash and change before she could hug her husband of speak to her children to make sure she had not carried the virus back.

At her daily briefing on Wednesday, Nicola Sturgeon said that testing in Scottish care homes would move from establishing if an outbreak has occurred to cover all residents who are symptomatic.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman also expected to resolve issues over PPE supplies reaching care homes in Scotland.

Linda Verlaque couldn't fault the care her father was given but acknowledged the relentless spread of the virus.

She said: It's distressing the illness is targeting the elderly. Although we are all trying to avoid contact, there we are my dad still came into contact some way and contracted it.

"The staff are doing their best in the community with what they have been given. I know that residents and service users and community are really grateful for what they are doing.

"The Erskine staff were really patient with my dad and moved his bed so he could see out into the gardens. Even in the final week they sat with him, looking at old photographs making sure that he was happy and well taken care of and I can't thank them enough for that."

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