Care homes lockdown leads to nightmare for Mandurah couple of 44 years

Pamela Bell has been to the Brightwater care facility in Mariners Cove to visit her husband, Merv, every day for the past two years.

Merv, 65, took up residence at the facility in 2018, following a long stint battling Huntington's disease.

As his primary carer, Pamela hasn't missed a day with him since, with the pair often enjoying a game of uno or simply relaxing and listening to music together.

But those visits came to a devastating halt last Thursday, March 19, as the care home went into a complete lockdown due to the threat of coronavirus.

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It was a gut-wrenching blow for the couple, who now face their biggest test in 44 years of marriage.

"I was just in shock when I found out I couldn't visit Merv anymore," Pamela said.

"I was in the shops and I had to leave because I just started crying.

"We've been through so much together and now it's just my routine to visit him every day, so to have that taken away in the blink of an eye is just really difficult."

The lockdown has literally placed a glass barrier between Merv and his family, with Pamela and their two children now only able to visit from outside the window and chat over the phone.

"We have FaceTime and phone calls and I'll sit outside the window and together we'll do a music quiz or something like that, but it's that connection of being in the same room as someone you love, there's no replacing that," Pamela said

"Everything we've done for the past almost 50 years has been done together. Our lives, raising our family - it's just so hard to be apart now."

Merv was tested for Huntington's disease back in 1994, and knowing he would battle with it later in life, both he and Pamela opted to go travelling and live life to the fullest.

Though still a sharp mind, over time the condition has greatly limited his movement, leading him to need extensive care, which usually came in the form of his loving wife.

"That's one of the things that I stress about the most," Pamela said

"I know the staff at Brightwater are doing everything they can, and I'm aware this is a really tough time for them, but it's different when a family member is able to provide that care."

Since the lockdown kicked in a week ago Pamela has taken it on herself to reach out to others in a similar situation, leading to her creating the Facebook group No Visits Today.

"I just wanted to create a forum where people can share their stories and know they aren't alone in this," she said.

"Hopefully it can help people going through similar struggles."