Daughter makes 860-mile round-trip to Dorset care home

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Liz Thompson, right, celebrates her 90th birthday in her bedroom at Colten Care’s Castle View home in Poundbury, Dorset, with daughter Sarah Burnett who travelled all the way from Edinburgh.

A Dorset care home has received heartfelt thanks for hosting a Covid-safe, half-hour visit from a resident’s daughter who made an 860-mile round-trip to wish her mum a happy 90th birthday.

Sarah Burnett travelled from Edinburgh to Colten Care’s Poundbury home, Castle View, to see Liz Thompson before the latest pandemic restrictions in Scotland and England.

The visit was the first time the pair had been together since last Christmas and was held fully in line with the home’s safe-visiting procedures.

Sarah said: “The staff at Castle View have been genuinely caring all the way through lockdown and were so lovely about helping to make this happen. I can’t thank them enough.”

As with all 21 Colten Care homes, Castle View currently operates a booking system for half-hour family visits.

Some take place either side of clear Perspex screens installed in homes’ entranceways or, as in Sarah and Liz’s case, in the resident’s bedroom with physical distancing and PPE.

Because of the degree of co-ordinating involved, the times are strictly limited to half an hour to be fair to all residents’ families.

“Half an hour is not a long time to catch up on so many months’ worth of news but it was definitely worth it, said Sarah. “It was great to see her and how happy she was.  I was slightly apprehensive beforehand wondering how she would be but she was on great form.”

Before making the trip, Sarah had discussed her mother’s birthday with her two brothers, one of whom was in France with the other in Thailand.

“Before Covid I would come down from Edinburgh four times a year and my brothers would also visit. She probably saw one of us at least once a month on average. The last time I saw her was last Christmas.

“I had been planning to come down in the spring but couldn’t because of lockdown. Since then our contact has mainly been on the phone, with occasional WhatsApp video.

“Back in March we thought Covid would be over quickly but when it got towards her 90th birthday, realistically I was the only one of the family who could go and see her.

“She was surprised when I said I would be coming. I think she had given up on her birthday.”

Sarah’s trip involved flying from Edinburgh to Bristol, a train from there to Dorchester, and then local bus travel to and from her brother’s flat in Bridport where she stayed overnight before arriving at Castle View for the afternoon visit.

Because of flight and train times, she also spent a night in Bristol on the way back before flying north. Altogether, it was a four-day trip to ensure the precious half-hour with Liz.

Sarah said: “Two of the Castle View carers joined me to sing Happy Birthday to mum. The chefs had baked a birthday cake and there were balloons and a birthday crown for her. It all made it more of an occasion, a bigger thing that I had been expecting.

“Although we couldn’t touch or go within two metres of each other, we still had a ‘mini-party’ thanks to the staff.”

Born and brought up in Bath, Liz worked in TV news in London as a researcher and scriptwriter before becoming an English teacher at various schools and eventually retiring to Dorchester.

A Grade 8 classical pianist, she also paints and has contributed to Castle View residents’ art exhibitions since she moved to the home two years ago.

Liz said: “I had decided not to make a fuss about my 90th and had assumed no-one was coming so it was great to see Sarah. It was a real surprise when she told me she was going to make the trip. She came a long way for such a short time.”

Sarah, who has lived in Edinburgh for 20 years and works as a freelance copywriter, said she would think twice about making the trip now in the light of the new national restrictions.

“I would be more wary about it,” she said. “Even if it was permissible, I don’t think I would actually go ahead in case the plane or train end up being cancelled. Back when I originally booked it people were still travelling and it was all fine to go.”

Sue Goodwin, Companionship Team Member at Castle View, said: “The saying goes that you should keep the company of those who would travel hours to spend only one with you. This was certainly the case for Liz and Sarah.

“It was a privilege to host Sarah’s visit from the other end of the country and enable the pair of them to see each other again in safety and with joy and laughter. It was such a special occasion.”

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