Care home residents in the Harrogate district have begun having emotional reunions with their loved ones as visits are now allowed for the first time in months.

Following a government rule change, yesterday was the first day that those in homes could choose one person to come and see them and hold their hand.

The rules require the visitor to take a Covid test, and as long as it comes back negative and they wear full PPE, they are then allowed into the home.

Pat Docherty’s husband Harry has vascular dementia and is a resident at Vida Grange care home in Pannal.

Yesterday she was able to go inside the home to see him and hold his hand for the first time in a year.

She said:

“I did have a certain amount of apprehension, but I was too excited to let that bother me.

“I hadn’t realised how emotional I would feel, and to feel the warmth of his hand again was the most amazing experience. It was just unbelievably good.

“It’s made the most enormous difference, although I’ve been able to see him in the visiting pod or on Skype, I hadn’t realised how important that contact would be, so it was a very strong feeling.

“I can see how Harry is feeling by the way he looks and the way his eyes are, and I have to say he was quite emotional. I was emotional, he was emotional, and to be perfectly honest I hadn’t realised just how emotional that meeting would be.

“I would desperately love to be able to run in and give him a big hug and a kiss, but I’m very aware that we need to be very, very cautious. This virus is not something that’s going to disappear, we need to learn to live with it. Unfortunately you only need one drop, and I would hate to think that I had been the cause of people in the care home being ill, so I think caution and slow progress is what’s needed.”

James Rycroft, the managing director of Vida Healthcare, said:

“Families and visitors are so, so appreciative of the fact that we can now welcome people back into our homes, it’s a major, major breakthrough and a major step forward in our progress with this pandemic. 

“Over the past year families have had a very emotional and sometimes lonely time not being able to see and touch their loved ones.

“This change allows residents and families to connect and be tactile in the form of holding hands, that really is a major step forward for our care and also for mental health as well.

“In order to facilitate these visits, we are obviously putting in place stringent infection control procedures, staring with lateral flow testing for everyone, full PPE, and guidance straight to a visiting area. Visits will last for one hour and then that space will be fully cleaned and disinfected to allow the next guest to come forward and visit.

“I would like to personally thank every member of our staff at Vida Healthcare for the sterling effort they have made over the past year and throughout this whole pandemic. Our staff have adapted, they have taken up the reins of filling that gap where families could no longer visit, and they have been nothing but brave and I am extremely proud of their efforts. 

Read more local stories from Your Harrogate here