The family of a 94-year-old woman who died alone in hospital said a ban on visitors during the coronavirus pandemic “broke her spirit”.
Audrey Pooley was not allowed visitors for the last six weeks of her life, spent in three hospitals in Cornwall.
She did not have Covid-19 and was admitted with a fractured hip following a fall.
The Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust said stopping visitors was “one of the hardest decisions it has made”.
Mrs Pooley’s daughter-in-law Thoko Elphick-Pooley said: “She did not see any familiar faces that whole time and it broke her spirit.
“She needed family more than ever”.
She described Mrs Pooley, from Mabe near Penryn, as “an amazing woman” who was “full of life”.
“Family was everything to her so the fact that in her time of need we weren’t there – we feel like we let her down,” she said.
“The last weeks of her life were filled with loneliness and we are so upset about that.”
Mrs Pooley never recovered from the fall and died from cardiac failure on 2 June.
Her four children and wider family said they had difficulties making regular contact by phone and staff were unable to set up a video call while she was a patient.
Her son, Jeremy Elphick-Pooley, said: “It was a disaster. She needed to see us or at least speak to us. One time we called 42 times before we could speak to anybody.”
The trust apologised to the family and said: “Stopping nearly all visiting has been one of the hardest decisions we have had to make during the pandemic and we know this has been really tough for patients and their families.”
It said it was encouraging patients and their families to stay in touch using phones and tablets provided on the wards.
Psychology Professor Paul Farrand, from the University of Exeter, said he hoped in the longer term rules would be lifted for the benefit of patients, families and staff.
“We are preparing for increased mental health problems because of moral distress amongst staff because they are having to enforce such conditions,” he said.
The Patients Association said it was “profoundly concerned” about the impact on patients of “measures the NHS has taken to manage this health emergency”, including families not being able to visit relatives.