The COVID-19 divide: Brit Brit woman Sarah Chambers misses last months of father knowing who she is

LOST TIME: Sarah Chambers' father David Morrison, who is in a nursing home in Victor Habour, with her husband Mark. Picture: CONTRIBUTED
LOST TIME: Sarah Chambers' father David Morrison, who is in a nursing home in Victor Habour, with her husband Mark. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

A Wimmera woman fears her father won't recognise her anymore by the time she is allowed to revisit him.

Sarah Chambers, of Brit Brit 75 minutes south of Horsham, used to own dog grooming business Paws in Harrow. She lives on a farm with her partner, while her parents are in Victor Harbor, South Australia.

The South Australian government has closed the border to most Victorians, including Mrs Chambers, since March. Mrs Chambers said her father David, lives with Alzheimer's disease, while her mother Judi also has "memory problems".

"I saw my Dad and Christmas time with my Mum, and then just before the borders shut for the second time, back in June, I managed to get over there for a couple of days and see Dad for three hours," she said.

"I was only allowed one hour a day with him. Back at Christmas, he knew who I was, now he has no clue, so I've lost that time that I could have had with him while he still remembered my husband and me. It was a very sad time.

"I applied for an exemption last time, but I'm a disability support worker for a private provider. Leaving my boss in a lurch when there are not many carers around at the moment is hard to do."

Mrs Chambers said the pandemic had made it harder to recruit carers.

"No one wants to work in the industry, and it's very hard in the country to find carers, so I don't like leaving for long periods and putting the carers that do work for my boss under pressure to fill those shifts," she said.

"We all try and work together and keep her covered, so it's a hard situation. Everyone else in disability and aged care at the moment is feeling the same way."

"I can understand why (South Australia) won't let anyone cross. They have been pretty lucky not to have too many cases. To get into the nursing home was harder than getting across the border: They have hard and fast rules."

The latest data shows there have been 313 deaths from coronavirus in aged care facilities in Australia, while 68 people in aged care have recovered from virus. There are 1364 active cases linked to aged care facilities, all of them in Victoria.

People cannot enter South Australian aged care facilities if they have been directed to quarantine for 14 days, among other restrictions.

Mrs Chambers knows the invisible line of the border quite well. Born in South Australia, she and her partner moved over to Apsley 20 years ago, enticed by cheaper land and living expenses.

"We just stayed in the area. My husband Mark is a farm manager, and we went to Harrow, Nareen, and now Brit Brit," she said.

"Being the only child, my Mum has no other family, so it's a hard time. The thing is, everyone else is in the same boat, we are all doing it really tough.

"My friend in Harrow, his Mum is in the same group of nursing homes. He can't get to see her either, and she's going blind and has dementia. He is lucky his brother in Adelaide, but on the flipside, his brother is having to cope all alone."

Mrs Chambers is hopeful she can see her family again at Christmas.

"I don't know how much time my Dad has left," she said. "He gets very aggressive, so he's gotten to the stage where he doesn't understand things, and it's really hard for my Mum because she's there alone. There is nothing I can do here except talk to her on the phone.

"I've got Mum booked in to see the geriatrician next month. I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do about her."

On Friday, South Australian premier Steven Marshall said he "fully accepted the heartache and frustration" his hard border crackdown had caused. He said he hoped to ease some restrictions "very soon".

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This story The COVID-19 divide: Brit Brit woman misses last months with Dad first appeared on The Wimmera Mail-Times.