A HARTFORD dementia carer is campaigning to secure carers' rights after she was cut off and left to care alone for her 91-year-old husband during the pandemic.

Hazel Barrow, 62, suffered panic attacks when she was left to care for husband Bill after their needs were deemed 'non-essential'.

Three years ago, Hazel, a former teacher at Hartford Manor Primary School, was offered home care for her husband two afternoons a week. But with the advent of lockdown, the support was abruptly withdrawn, with no indication of when help would resume.

Bill's condition began to rapidly deteriorate when the closure of day centres removed the purpose and routine from his day. And with no support at home, Hazel was unable to leave the house to shop for essentials, as her husband, a retired civil engineer, could not maintain social distancing.

She said: "We went into self-isolation two weeks before lockdown due to a member of day centre staff going down with Covid. All day respite centres closed leaving me alone to care for my husband 24/7, as all his home care visits were also stopped.

"As my husband has me to care for him, I was told we were 'non-essential' and so would no longer receive any support. This is despite him being assessed over three years ago as eligible.

"And in spite of him being 91 and living with dementia, we were not deemed a vulnerable household and so were not able to get on the supermarket delivery priority lists. Nor were we eligible for food parcels.

"From March onwards, we couldn't get a delivery slot for three months. We had to rely on friends and neighbours and I got very creative with what we had in the cupboards."

Hazel said she knows of three people in the local area who had to make the heart-breaking decision to put their partners in residential care after their home care visits were stopped and they could no longer cope alone.

"I was exhausted to start off with," she said, "and I'm not even sure there is a word to describe how tired I feel right now."

After a tearful phone call, Hazel was eventually able to organise weekly food parcel delivery and find a care company who were still carrying out visits. A telephone befriender now calls Hazel three times a week, which she says helps.

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Carer support charities are increasingly worried that some local authorities may cite the new Coronavirus Act, which was rushed through in March, to deny carers their rights.

Karen Greenhalgh from charity tide (Together in Dementia Everyday) is project manager for Law For Dementia Carers, a partnership with Making Space that aims to help carers understand their legal rights.

She said: "The Coronavirus Act gives local authorities the right to invoke Care Act easements where this is considered necessary, which may affect services that have previously been on offer. This could include personal care and support for people living at home. This can have an enormous impact on people with dementia and their carers.”

Kathryn Penrith, consultant Admiral nurse, Making Space, said: "As the Coronavirus Act is up for review in September, we are working with families to ensure their voices are heard in the review process. Our Law for Dementia Carers project invites carers to fill in our online questionnaire so we can share their experiences."

Click here to complete the survey. The closing date is Wednesday, August 5.