Emotional reunions as care homes allow visitors for first time in months

Care home visits are now permitted in Wales Credit: ITV Wales

Peter Thorp has been separated from his wife Janet for four months because of Covid-19. Like many others with loved ones in a care home, Peter has only been able to communicate with Jan through carers on the phone. The couple have been married for more than 40 years.

Peter said he and Janet have had "a very happy life." 

Before the pandemic, he would visit her in Anwen Care Home in Bridgend and spend a few hours with her every day. He would also chat to the carers who looked after Janet. With no other family, the home has been as much a part of Peters life, as Janets.

Peter said: "Particularly in the summer I used to wheel her out into the garden at Anwen and that was magnificent and we’d sit there and she used to pick out different things in the garden and that was a really pleasant time and she thoroughly enjoyed it.  

"I got to know the carers, the carers became part of my family because I had nobody else and when Covid hit, I couldn’t see them... and this is where it went horribly wrong really." 

Peter said his wife Janet was very glamorous in her youth Credit: Peter Thorp

Peter had to replace his daily visit with a phone call. Janet does not speak to him on the phone so the carers let Peter know how she is getting on.

Gemma Vaughan, a mental health nurse at Anwen, said: "They've got a loving relationship, they're a lovely little couple. Janet's deteriorated a little bit and I think that could be due to Covid from missing Peter."

Peter has been concerned that when he sees his wife again she may not recognise him.  

He said: "The few times I went in during Covid she sat there and just looked at me and one time she said 'where do you live?' So it’s difficult, it really is."

"Occasionally I might pop down there with grapes and chocolates and toiletries and stuff but I’ve got to leave them there and they take them through to her so I never have any communications or visuals of Jan. But as long as she’s happy that’s all I can ask for."

When the rates of coronavirus dropped in Wales and the Welsh Government changed the rules so visitors could be permitted to see their loved ones in care homes again, Peter arranged to see Janet as soon as it was possible. The care home arranged for visitors to see their friends or relatives through a glass screen after doing a coronavirus test.

Peter said: "Hopefully that will evolve into a proper visit where I can sit next to her. But we’ll have to wait and see about that. At least this is a start and it’s something to sort of cling on to." 

After a worrying wait, Peter was pleased to discover that his wife could tell who he was.

“I was dreading it. Because I didn’t think she’d recognise me. But her smile was there and she was actually communicating. Everything I asked her she answered. Ok in one syllable, but she answered…

"She’s lost me to all intents and purposes as a friend because I haven’t been able to go in and see her so her friends now are the carers, and the carers have been absolutely superb."

Watch as Peter and Janet reunite for the first time after four months apart:

Yvonne and Gareth Morgan are another couple who have been separated during the pandemic. Gareth is living in a care home and his wife Yvonne has not been able to see him for seven months. The pair have been together for 48 years and Yvonne said she has been missing him greatly over the past year.

Yvonne said: "He was wild, that's why I liked him. I never knew what he was up to. Wicked. He liked his pint very much, his pint of beer. I know where I’d find him, he’d never be with another woman, he'd be with his pint...

"I just miss him because he is just, I call him a nuisance in a loving way but you’d always know he was there."

After seven months, Yvonne was able to visit Gareth at the care home. She said she could only see him through the window because the staff were having difficulties getting him out of bed.

Watch as Gareth and Yvonne are reunited:

Throughout most of the year, visits to care homes have been banned so staff at Anwen Care Home have been trying to celebrate special occasions to keep spirits up while complying with Covid regulations. One resident, Sylvia Hodge, said she wished it would snow on her birthday so the staff arranged a surprise to make her day.  

ITV Wales has been following the stories of residents and staff at Anwen Care Home over the past few months. Our team has been given unique access and footage taken by the carers inside the home to find out what the pandemic’s meant for the residents, their families and their carers. 

  • Coronavirus: A Care Home's Story is on ITV Wales, Tuesday 20 April at 8pm.