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Advice on caring for someone you don't live with

We know that many people provide care and support to an older person they don't live with. The pandemic has made providing care and support more challenging. 

Caring for someone you live with?

There's specific information for how to provide care and support to someone who lives with you.

Am I a carer?

Being a carer for someone can look really different to each and every person. You might not even consider yourself a carer, just someone who lends a hand or pops to the shops for someone you know. But if you provide support for someone – whether you’re paid or not – then you're a carer.

You may care for someone by:

  • picking up essential supplies
  • checking in with them on a regular basis
  • supporting them to take their medication
  • providing cleaning services
  • supporting someone to stay independent at home with personal care such as helping them to eat, move about the house or shower.

If you care for someone, it's a good idea to put together an emergency plan, just in case something happens, or guidance changes, and it becomes trickier for you to keep providing care.

Your emergency plan should include:

  • the name and address and any other contact details of the person you look after
  • details of any medication the person you look after is taking
  • details of any medical appointments they need to keep
  • details of any ongoing treatment they need
  • details of what you do to care for the person
  • who should be contacted if there's an emergency.

Perhaps there's a family member, friend, trusted neighbour or a local community support group that could step in and help if necessary?

Can I still provide care for and visit someone in a care home?

There is a clear expectation in guidance that care homes will enable a variety of different types of visits between residents and their loved ones. While each care home is responsible for setting the exact details of the visiting policy in that home, they should all be facilitating:

  • regular indoor visiting for one named individual per resident
  • regular indoor and close contact visits for an essential care giver following an assessment of an individual's needs
  • outdoor visiting for those not deemed as the named visitor or an essential care giver
  • visiting at a window for those not deemed as the named visitor or an essential care giver
  • visiting in a specially designated visiting room or pod for those not deemed as the named visitor or an essential care giver.

The guidance states clearly that you can visit a loved one in a care home, whether or not they have had the coronavirus vaccine. However, some care homes are making this a condition of visiting

If there is an outbreak of coronavirus in a care home, there will still be some visiting allowed. This includes the regular visiting of an essential care giver and regular visiting from loved ones if an individual is at the end of their life. If you’re a resident’s single named visitor, you won't be able to visit during an outbreak.

I am the single named visitor for my loved one in a care home, what does this mean?

The Single Name Visitor policy means that every care home resident will be able to nominate one person as their named visitor who’ll be allowed to visit their care home on a regular basis and spend time indoors.

If a care home resident lacks mental capacity, a best interest decision will need to be made in accordance with the Mental Capacity Act to determine who the nominated visitor will be.

As a single named visitor you can expect:

  • to have to agree your visits with the care home ahead of time
  • to have to be tested for coronavirus before you enter the care home with a lateral flow test. If your lateral flow test comes back positive you won’t be allowed to enter the care home and will have to arrange another coronavirus test through the national booking system
  • to have to wear appropriate PPE, which the care home will provide for you and tell you how and when you must wear it
  • to be asked to keep close contact such as hugs to a minimum with your loved one
  • to be expected to observe social distancing from other residents, visitors and staff at all times
  • changes to visiting if the care home experiences a coronavirus outbreak or is given directions from the Local Authority to stop visiting.

Government guidance states clearly that being able to visit a loved one in a care home is not conditional on an individual having had the coronavirus vaccine, although some care homes are making this a condition of visiting.

What is an essential care giver and how I can become one to look after my loved one in a care home?

The Essential Care Giver policy means that some loved ones will be allowed to regularly visit and help care home staff provide personal care and emotional wellbeing support to their loved one.

Government guidance states that an essential care giver role is  “intended for circumstances where the visitor’s presence or the care they provide is central to the immediate health and wellbeing of the resident.”

It makes clear that some care home residents have care and support needs that cannot be easily be met or cause substantial distress being met, without the support of a familiar loved one. This can include personal care, but may also include the presence or company of a loved one to provide emotional or mental support.

National government guidance sets out that care homes must complete an individual risk assessment to assess the rights and needs of individual residents and consider the role that an essential care giver should play in meeting someone’s needs. During the assessment and following a decision, the resident, their advocate or power of attorney where appropriate, and their loved ones must be involved.

If the care home your loved one lives in hasn’t approached you about an essential care giver role and you believe that this is necessary, try speaking to the care home about their plans to undertake an assessment of your loved ones needs and how you can support their health and wellbeing.

I am an essential care giver for my loved one in a care home, what can I expect?

As an essential care giver you’ll be allowed to regularly visit your loved one, be in close contact and provide personal care and emotional support. 

As you’re able to have closer physical contact with your loved one and spend more time in the care home you’ll be asked to take further steps to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection. 

This includes being asked to take coronavirus tests more regularly. This means:

  • you’ll have to take a minimum of two rapid lateral flow test a week and one PCR test a week (more details will be given to you by the care home)
  • you’ll be subject to additional testing should the care home be required to do daily testing of staff or outbreak testing
  • you’ll be asked to wear the same PPE as care home staff and will be supported to understand how to use it correctly
  • you’ll be asked to follow all the care home’s infection control measures, including social distancing from other residents and staff where appropriate.

You’ll have to agree with the care home what support and care you’ll provide to your loved one. It’s a good idea to ask for arrangements and training to be written down and agreed between yourself and the care home staff.

If the care home has a coronavirus outbreak, you’ll still be allowed to regularly visit and provide essential care.

Government guidance states clearly that being able to visit a loved one in a care home is not conditional on an individual having had the coronavirus vaccine, although some care homes are making this a condition of visiting.

Can a resident leave a care home to visit loved ones?

Government guidance states that for the duration of this national lockdown, care home residents must follow the national restrictions which means they must stay at home and must not gather indoors unless one of the specified exemptions apply. This means that a resident will not in general be able to meet another household indoors (for example, visit their family in the family’s home).

In the event of exceptional circumstances, such as the need to visit a friend or relative at the end of their life, the Government guidance stats that a care home should support a resident to leave after undertaking relevant risk assessments.

If this does occur:

  • All members of the household hosting the visit must have a negative coronavirus test immediately before the visit takes place – for example when the household collect the resident from the care home.
  • The care home resident must have a negative coronavirus test immediately before their visit out of the care home. If the result is positive, the visit shouldn't take place.
  • During the visit, it is advisable that everyone in the household follows safety measures such as maintaining a social distance, washing their hands regularly, letting plenty of fresh air in to rooms and consider wearing a face covering.

On their return to the care home, a resident will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

Can I still provide care for someone in their home if I don’t live with them?

If you provide care that requires you to go into someone’s home – perhaps you help them to get out of bed, move around their house, take their medication, or get dressed – then you can carry on doing this.

But, if you do so, you have to follow simple hygiene steps to protect the person you care for. These include:

  • washing your hands when you arrive and often during your visit, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • catching any sneezes in a tissue and dispose of it straight away
  • if you do need to cough you should cough into the crook of your elbow
  • consider wearing a face covering if it’s possible for you and the person you are caring for.

If you or the person you care for lives alone or in a singled-adult household, you can form a support bubble with each other. This can make caring easier as it means you can spend time in the house of the person you care for without needing to socially distance.

If you are in an area where lockdown restrictions are in place, it means you would be able to stay at one another's houses and travel together.

You’re only allowed to form one support bubble with another household and once you have formed a support bubble you cannot change who is in the bubble. You can find more information on support bubbles here.

If the person you care for lives in a supported living setting, you should talk to the person you care for and the supported living provider to arrange how you can continue to provide this care. More information on the government issued guidance can be found here.

Download me and pop me on the fridge

We've created a resource with handy information and helpful contact numbers that you can give it someone you might be worried about.

Can I still provide care if I have symptoms or I'm self-isolating?

If you feel unwell, have any symptoms of coronavirus or are self-isolating for another reason (for example you've been advised to by NHS Test and Trace) you shouldn’t carry on providing any care or support.

If this does happen, you should look at your emergency contingency plan if you have one and notify another family member, friend, trusted neighbour or local community support group who would be able to step in and help.

If those options aren't available or appropriate, you can contact your local council or health care provider.

If you do not know how to do this, you can contact NHS 111.

It may also be helpful to contact your local carers support organisation. You can find out about local carer organisations at Carers UK.

Can I still provide care if the person I care for has symptoms or is self-isolating?

If the person you care for has symptoms of coronavirus, you can carry on caring as long as you are not considered ‘clinically vulnerable’ or ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ and originally told you should ‘shield’.

If this is the case, you should where possible ask friends and family who can support you in providing care to step in. If there is no other option available, you should make sure you distance yourself where possible from the person you care for while they are displaying symptoms and follow guidance in staying safe as much as possible.

Can I help with someone else's cleaning or shopping?

If you help someone with their cleaning, or you usually do the shopping or pick up essential supplies then you can carry on doing so. In local lockdown areas, you're still allowed to go into someone else’s home to provide essential care or assistance to a vulnerable person.

Try to make sure you still take precautions to keep the person you're supporting and yourself safe. These could include:

Ensuring you wash your hands when you arrive – for at least 20 seconds with soap and water – and then regularly during your visit.

  • Try to keep a 2 metre distance from anyone else at all times – perhaps you could ask the person you support to stay in one room whilst you clean or unload the shopping?
  • You could also buy some new cleaning products or use what the person already has, as bringing your own can increase the risk of spreading the virus from home to home.
  • Make sure any surfaces you touch are wiped down clean.

What can I do if I'm worried about their wellbeing?

If you're caring for someone, you may be worried about their wellbeing, particularly with everything going on. It’s normal during this strange time to feel anxious or worried.

If you're very concerned about someone's health or welfare, but don't think it's an emergency you should call 111 for NHS advice, 24 hours a day. If there is an emergency, you should call 999.

If the person you care for develops symptoms of coronavirus it's important to follow guidelines on booking a test and self-isolating. If they're clinically extremely vulnerable and develop symptoms you should call NHS 111 immediately for advice. 

You should also seek medical help for the person you care for if:

  • they cannot cope with their symptoms at home
  • they feel breathless and it's getting worse
  • their symptoms get worse.

In other situations, for example where you're worried about potential abuse or neglect, you can contact the local authority in the area where the person lives and let them know that you are concerned.

How can I look after my own wellbeing?

This is a worrying time for many and if you are caring for someone, this may be a particularly stressful time for you.

As carers, it's easy to focus so much of our energy on the person we care for, that sometimes we may forget to look after ourselves, however we must protect the well-being of both the person we care for and ourselves.

As well as looking after others, make sure you're looking after yourself too and addressing any worries you have. These pages can help you do that:

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Last updated: Apr 20 2021

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