Gaetano D’Amico and Rose Vassallo, residents in two separate care homes for the elderly, can’t wait for the day they will be able to hug their loved ones and celebrate Easter as a family, rather than being confined to their rooms.
One year since the island went into partial lockdown, Malta entered a month-long shutdown covering the Easter period. This has meant that the Maltese are once again facing an Easter spent away from their loved ones. This is especially the case with elderly people in care homes who are not allowed to be taken out for Easter-related events by their loved ones or have proper visiting hours.
“A situation like this can sometimes be very daunting as I would much prefer speaking to my family without a Perspex screen between us … to have that physical contact and be able to hug my children and grandchildren,” Gaetano, who lives at Care Malta’s Casa San Paolo, told this newsroom.
The Malta Independent on Sunday also spoke via Zoom to Rose Vassallo, who resides at Roseville Care Home. Her daughter Marthese Vassallo was also present for the call. Rose is one of 4,400 people living in 37 elderly homes in Malta who have been confined to their rooms in order to control the spread of the virus.
Under normal circumstances during the Easter period, both Gaetano and Rose spend the holidays with their families and enjoy the many activities that are organised in the home itself.
‘I wear my best clothes for our Skype calls’
These days, both Marthese and Gaetano’s daughter, Natasha Banavage, speak to their parents on their tablet through Skype, and this is the only means they have to spend some time ‘together’ during Easter for this year.
“Whenever I have a Skype call with my family, I make the effort to take a shower, wear some of my best clothes, do my hair and put on some lipstick,” Rose said.
Although both Gaetano and Rose expressed their content and appreciation with how staff members within the homes are taking very good care of them, once this is over, they are very eager to go out like they used to.
Gaetano expressed that “although this is all being done to protect us, the restrictions pose a number of negative consequences especially that of being separated from the outside world. It sometimes gets too much on our mental health.”
“Being confined in the four walls of our room is not a joke and we can only hope that this will be over soon. From our end, we cannot do much to put an end to this situation as it falls down to the public outside who need to be responsible,” he said.
The vaccination process has finished in Casa San Paolo as well as in Roseville offering a sense of relief as well as bringing a palpable sense of liberation and hopeful feeling that this pandemic will one day come to an end.
“We are now just waiting for that whistle to be blown, so we can wake up, shower and go out like we used to do, even if it’s just for a cup of coffee,” Gaetano said.
Special occasions missed
Rose expressed that the pandemic has been going on for so long that special occasions such as Easter celebrations, birthdays, Christmas and others have all been missed.
“Once this pandemic is over, we will make sure to celebrate all the special occasions that have been accumulating as one big family and have a great party,” Rose said.
Marthese also shared with this newsroom that a couple of months ago they welcomed a new member within the family and are expecting to welcome another new-born sometime this month. With a heavy heart, Rose explained that, due to Covid-19, she has not yet had the opportunity to meet the baby but only see her through Skype.
“I long for the day I will be able to keep her in my arms,” she said.
‘We make the most of the situation’
Gaetano as well as his daughter Natasha, said that “the situation is what it is, but we try our best to make the most of it.”
Gaetano is the president of the residents committee at Casa San Paolo who frequently takes part in organising the many activities that take place in the home for the residents.
Casa San Paolo usually organise a number of Easter related activities such as the Easter mass, a procession to celebrate our Lady of Sorrows as well as an Easter lunch. The majority of the residents are also taken out on Sunday by their loved ones.
“The only thing that I was able to organise this year was to help set up a corner of prayer depicting the Crucifixion of Jesus at the entrance of the care home for residents to pray on Good Friday,” Gaetano said.
He described himself as a very active person and said that organising activities for the residents is something which he truly enjoyed and is looking forward to doing that once again after this is over.
“When organising such activities my main aim is to bring what life had to offer outside of the home and bring it inside the care home for the residents as we seek to eliminate a monotonous life. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and the restrictions that came along with it, we had to put a stop to all these activities,” says Gaetano.
Good days, and bad ones
Although he seems to have a positive and healthy attitude, his daughter Natasha, said that like everyone else he does have his bad days.
“When the decision was taken to confine the residents in their own room, he was taken aback because he couldn’t organise the usual activities and he couldn’t socialise with the other residents. He tries his best to keep himself occupied and from our end, we try to be as positive as possible,” Natasha said.
She added that “we can’t wait to see him without these restrictions but even for his own well-being, we want to see him go out freely and be able to visit his siblings and other relatives.”
Gaetano added that “we are now left with this strong sense of hope that the pandemic will be over soon, and with an urgency to be able to go outside, meet our friends and family, and ultimately live a normal life very soon.”
A special Easter lunch
This newsroom spoke to CareMalta’s Communications Executive, Simonne Schembri, about what is being done within the homes to alleviate the mood and lessen feelings of isolation.
She explained that, “it is the norm in all homes managed by CareMalta that residents are treated to a special Easter Sunday lunch, together with a traditional Easter treat, and this year will be no different.”
Schembri added that meaningful activities on both Good Friday and Easter Sunday are held in accordance with each and every bubble setup in all the homes. The activities vary, from spiritual to physical, while giving a sense of well-being.
“Safety remains a priority and all measures will still be kept, with particular emphasis on outdoor use. We look forward to the day when our residents can once again be able to go out,” she said.
Top photo: File Photo