The grandmother-of-four, a ‘much loved’ former publican, was first placed in a home in June 2020, separating her from indoor, in-person contact with her daughter until the Government eased restrictions earlier this month.
In December, she was moved to her current home in East Sussex, where flowers, balloons, banners, gifts and a cake marked the occasion.
Debbie, who lives in Hastings, has made a handful of visits since the restrictions were eased under the roadmap out of lockdown.
She said: ‘It’s amazing to have that personal contact, the face-to-face time and to hold my mum’s hand. It was a very emotional occasion and I just wanted to remain strong for her and to get upset afterwards.
‘Unfortunately I can’t lose sight of the fact my mum has Alzheimer’s and her condition is deteriorating day by day. Some days she knows me, some days she doesn’t, and I have to accept that, which is part of this cruel disease.
‘My mum can fail to recognise me and then come back in the room and say how happy she is to see me. It’s hard, but you get little glimmers.’
Under the roadmap, each care home resident is allowed one regular indoor visitor, provided they take a Covid test before entry and wear PPE.
Debbie, 56, had previously only been able to see Anne through a glass screen, while speaking over a telephone.
Her mother had struggled to understand the arrangement until a private room for one-to-one visits was arranged at Whitecliff care home.
Debbie has also been reading and showing family photographs to Anne, who grew up in Merseyside and previously ran pubs in Sussex and Kingston-upon-Thames in London.
Debbie said: ‘Alzheimer’s doesn’t hang around for anybody.
‘A year is a massive time in Alzheimer’s world. My mother is losing her capacity to do a lot of things day-by-day and while we are closer because I’m allowed in, we’re still not able to do a lot of things we did a year ago.
‘Every day is precious and you never know what tomorrow holds.
‘I could go in today and my mum could be wonderful then I could visit again tomorrow and she wouldn’t know who I am.
‘The past year has been an emotional rollercoaster but everyone is in the same boat, not just people with relatives in care homes.
‘There are so many who are missing that time with their families, you need to make the most of every day.’
Matt Hancock has told the BBC it is something ministers are looking into, although there has not been any official announcement.
The Care Campaign for the Vulnerable (CCFTV), which is supporting Debbie, has accused the Government of being too slow to restore in-person visits.
Founder Jayne Connery said: ‘We are so pleased to hear that Debbie could visit her elderly mother on her special birthday.
‘These precious visits are bittersweet for many families as they say it’s been a very long and difficult year since they could hold the hand of their loved one in a care home and join in family celebrations.
‘CCFTV believes visits have come too late for families that have lost loved ones throughout the pandemic, many unable to spend time with them and suspecting they had suffered from isolation and loneliness.
‘While our hearts sing now for families like Debbie who are finally reunited, we are very sad for the families whereupon visitation restored back into care homes comes much too late.’
Announcing the new rules earlier this month, the Health Secretary said: ‘I know how important visiting a loved one is and I’m pleased we will soon be in a position for people to be carefully and safely reunited with loved ones who live in care homes.
‘This is just the first step to getting back to where we want to be.
‘We need to make sure we keep the infection rate down, to allow greater visiting in a step-by-step way in the future.’
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