I AGREE wholeheartedly with the article by Joanna Cherry on care home visits (While one million vaccines is to be celebrated, there remain difficulties, February 12). Perhaps greater consideration should be given to what life means for older folk in care homes, when we prioritise preserving life.

All the efforts since March have been directed towards keeping them free from the virus and therefore alive. In many cases, however, that has meant only that they are kept breathing, sleeping, eating and sitting around, within the limits of the care home. Is that all that being alive is thought to consist of for them?

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By the time they have to live in a care home, older folk have spent a lifetime of having their everyday lives conditioned and bounded by the world around them, in particular by their family and to a lesser extent by friends and others. Over time, the balance changes from others being dependent on them to their dependence on others until eventually, with age, they lose everything of that long life that made them who they are, except their family relationship.

To deprive them, therefore, of that last vestige of the person they have been and the life they have known for most of their time on this earth is to reduce life to the description above, so that they can spend longer in this isolated, non-person state, in the hope that they will, at some distant date, be reconnected with their family. Many will prefer simply turn their face to the wall and die, knowing that they are unlikely anyway to last that long. This is exactly what happened to an elderly friend from my childhood recently, who had lost the will to live when family were shut out and died, without symptoms, only a couple of days after being tested positive, but at least ten days after refusing to get up, dress or eat.

I realise that this is a real dilemma for care homes and governments, as they take criticism whether they do or don’t allow family visits, but perhaps we should start to regard family contact as an essential part of the care package to keep the elderly alive.

P Davidson