With hospital visits banned I don't know if I've held my mum's hand for the last time - Hayley Matthews

I had a call from the hospital earlier in the week and, as always, my stomach flipped.

Hospital visits have been restricted due to Covid
Hospital visits have been restricted due to Covid

The nurses are always very good at saying immediately "it's nothing to worry about" so as soon as I hear those words I know my mum is ok.

I say "ok", she has late stage vascular dementia, alcohol related brain damage, she's lost a lot of weight, is incredibly frail and is often confused and upset. She asks me to pass her the phone on the wall which doesn't exist, all so she can call a friend to let them know my sister and I haven't to be raised and brought up by certain people.

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She talks like she's in a desperate situation and is trying to make plans for our safety, it's heartbreaking. She cries asking me why certain people won't help her out of bed or talk to her but it's because they're not there and she's hallucinating.

I ask her how she is and I can see her struggling for words. She stares at me for a few seconds which feels like a lifetime, then after a long pause whispers the words she's been searching for, and often I don't understand her.

Last week, as I stood beside her in her quiet pink cosy bedroom, I realised that the shift of parental responsibility had left her a long time ago and had been firmly sat on my shoulders now for a good while.

I looked around her room at the pictures I'd put all over the walls. I stared at a picture of us outside an old house in Portobello. She was towering over me in the picture as this strong motherly figure protecting me, her tiny toddler dressed in a red sporty dress, as I stood holding her hand for motherly protection.

And now here we are in her hospital bedroom, me towering over her frail, vulnerable existence, as she holds on to my hand for protection. The irony of the picture wasn't wasted on me and the situation made me cry.

Our mother/daughter relationship had only just started to feel good and now it's vanishing in front of my eyes. Now, I'm the parent needing to be the strong one, the pillar of nurture and reassurance which if I'm honest, is what I need too.

No matter how old you are, you always need your mum and how cruel that it feels like I’ve finally started to understand the woman who's raised me, seeing her true personality, just as it's fading in to the ether.

So back to the call from the hospital, it wasn't anything to worry about, just a call to tell me the visits are stopping due to the increase in Covid. No visitors for my mum so she can stay safe from the dreaded coronavirus, but she's slipping away. If the visits are halted for the foreseeable, then who's going to be there to hold her hand and keep her from leaving?

For anyone who has loved ones in hospital just now in these awful times, I'm sending love and light. And as I spend the next few weeks or months even, wondering if that was the last time I'll hold my mum’s hand, send some love my way too please

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