After nearly two years of “begging” for their admission into his home care facility, a dementia patient said his last words before his death to his loved ones: “visitors”. His grief-stricken daughter claimed that this was his final word to him.

Gillian Latham claimed that Michael Benyo, her 84-year old father, couldn’t comprehend why his daughters were called ‘visitors.’ This made it impossible for them to see him only through the Barnsley Saxondale EMI Nursing Home window.

Ms. Latham claimed that her father used the term ‘visitors’ with dismay when Jaqueline Benyo (56) and Jaqueline (50) could see him in the home once more, along with Dorothy (88) for the last three months of their lives after they received ‘essential caregiver’ status.

She said Michael hated thinking of his daughters as ‘visitors’ and that he had been ‘begging’ for them to be allowed inside while the home was locked down between February 2020 and June 2021.

Bondcare, who run Saxondale EMI Nursing Home, said they ‘followed the government guidance issued regarding visiting’ but acknowledged the ‘difficult times’ care home residents and their families endured.

Michael kisses his daughter through the window at his care home while they were banned from going inside to see him, due to the rules surrounding Covid at the time

Michael kissed his daughter through the window of the care home where he was staying. They were not allowed to go in because of Covid’s rules at that time.

Ms Latham shared images showing the confusion on the her father’s face as he taps on the pane of glass

Ms Latham shared images showing the confusion on the her father’s face as he taps on the pane of glass

The Government was criticised for its ‘completely unacceptable’ blanket bans on care home visits during the pandemic.

More than a quarter of a million people signed a petition urging Boris Johnson to stop care homes ‘imprisoning our parents’ before it was delivered to Downing Street in May. 

A report by the joint-party human rights committee found that between May 26 and June 20 last year, 97 per cent of care homes were closed to all visitors.

This continued for months afterwards for many people in Tier Three and Tier Four areas – even though visits were still allowed.

Ms Latham, who works as a nurse, has revealed the family’s pain at watching her ailing father from behind a window – sharing images showing the confusion on the retired miner’s face as he taps on the pane of glass. 

A dementia patient's last words to his family before his death were 'visitors' after almost two years of 'begging' for them to be allowed inside his care home. Pictured: Michael Benyo, 84, with his daughter Gillian Latham (back right), wife Dorothy Benyo (back left) and other daughter Jaqueline Benyo (bottom left)

Before his death, the last words of a dementia patient to his loved ones were “visitors”, after nearly two years spent begging for permission to allow them into his care home. Pictured is Michael Benyo at 84 with Gillian Latham, Dorothy Benyo (back right), and Jaqueline Benyo (bottom).

Michael pictured with his daughters: Gillian (left) and Jaqueline (right). They were unable to go inside his care home between February 2020 and June this year

Michael (left) with Jaqueline and Gillian, his daughters. Between February 2020 to June 2019, they were not able to visit his home.

Ms. Latham is also from Barnsley in South Yorkshire. She said that “visitors” was the last thing dad had said.

When dad left the nursing home on a wheel chair, [on the way to hospital]You will find the sign at the front of the care home.

‘That’s the last word he said – with dismay in his voice and sadness in his face.

“He hated that word. He always said “they’re not visitors, they’re my daughters – my family”. He hated to think of us as tourists.

‘In many photos, the anguish in my dad’s face was shocking. It was awful. Dad didn’t understand why we couldn’t come in.

‘I’m glad he’s out of this and isn’t threatened with not being able to see his daughters or his wife.

‘I wouldn’t have been able to cope now if I hadn’t seen my dad before he died.’

Michael with his wife Dorothy Benyo. He died in October, three months after his daughters were finally allowed back into his care home

Michael and Dorothy Benyo. In October, three years after his girls were returned to him as his caretakers, he passed away.

Ms. Latham claimed that on June 24, she was granted essential caregiver status, just before her sister received hers in the summer. They were able to enter each other’s rooms for first time since February 2020.

Each time the family entered the home, they were required to perform lateral flow tests. They also needed to complete a weekly PCR test.  

Michael was originally a Hungarian refugee who arrived in the UK in 1957. He spent his last three years in residential care. After a lengthy period of hospitalization, he moved into a nursing facility in May 2019.

A year later the house was put under lockdown because of rising Covid cases. This left Ms. Latham fighting for him to be seen in person.

Ms Latham said: ‘It’s shocking what people are going through.

“Three Weeks before lockdown in Feb 2020, the manager closed down. That was our agreement.

‘But when everyone was coming out of lockdown and they could see their families, we still couldn’t see my dad [indoors]. It was hidden behind glass.

“He kept banging on windows and begs staff to allow him in.

‘The deputy manager said they weren’t having visitors and my dad shouted “they’re not visitors – they’re my daughters. “Let them in!”

The visiting sign Michael saw while he was being wheeled out of the care home to hospital. Ms Latham said: 'He detested the word [visitors]. He always said "they’re not visitors, they’re my daughters - my family". He hated thinking of us as visitors'

Michael saw the visiting sign as he was being taken from his care home to the hospital. Ms Latham explained that Michael hated the word. [visitors]. He always said “they’re not visitors, they’re my daughters – my family”. He hated to think of us as “visitors”.

According to her, the dementia of her father progressed when they were separated because “the conversation was not very good.” 

Ms. Latham praised her father’s care and said that her only problem was accessing her father.

She continued, “My dad wanted us to visit him.”

“He loved his care home. In 2019, he was seen singing with staff around the Christmas tree.

“He was a person-person. He wanted everyone to feel like a family.

He cared deeply for residents and people. He’d always ask if they were okay.’

In September this year, Michael’s care home had a Covid outbreak and Ms Latham said she and her sister were told visitation was banned. 

However, when they refused, they were permitted to return, not knowing that their father would soon pass away less than a year later.

On September 27, the home contacted Ms. Latham to notify her of the outbreak. Ms. Latham stated that she didn’t call back and instead visited the home to inform her. She also said that she’d rather die than hear my father bang on the windows once more. 

She added, “I was crying inconsolably.”

“We mourned when Dad was behind glass. It was as if someone had just died.

“I was able to spend time with my dad before his death. The care home called me and said that my father had aspirated once more.

“They were changing my father when I got up. He was standing up when someone went in.

“I believed he would be alright, but when he got into the room, his oxygen levels had dropped and he was gray.”

“We had a great conversation with him. Whether some people would have understood half of what he was saying, I don’t know.

‘I said I’d see him on the Friday and he said “I won’t be here – I’m going home”.

‘On the night he died, I could see when I got into the care home that he wasn’t going to make it. He had a abnormal rhythm of his heartbeat and was very grey.

“As soon as he reached hospital, he had 15 litres (of oxygen) and was struggling to breath.

“I received the call just before 5pm, and he passed away shortly after midnight. He was there for about an hour with my mum.

Now three weeks on, Ms Latham is telling her father’s story in the hope others will not have to continue battling to see their loved ones in care homes.

She said, “Dad was such a hardworking man. He touched many people’s hearts.

He said, “Everybody should be together. Love each other. Be together. Get better.” He did see TV, and the news. I suspect he was able to understand a little about Covid.

‘It’s hard to fully say what he was processing.

‘Now, in the current climate, with talk about further lockdowns and if people don’t get boosters, it makes you feel concerned that families will be parted again from loved ones.

‘We’re praying that others don’t carry on suffering the daily grief for someone who is still alive, as we felt prior to getting in to see dad.’

Bondcare is the owner of Saxondale EMI Nursing Home. He said, “Staff at Saxondale Nursing Home and management have worked very hard during pandemics to ensure safety residents and they followed government guidelines regarding visiting.

“We are sorry for the hardships that residents of care homes, their families, and staff had to go through during Covid outbreaks in Saxondale. We will do everything we can to make sure our residents’ safety and well-being.

“We look forward to the day when we are able to fully open ourselves without any restrictions. We’re extremely happy to receive old and new faces. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen you, and we truly miss you.