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If you provide care and support for an older person who you live with, you may be wondering how to continue caring for them safely during the coronavirus outbreak. Here are some of the things you may want to consider to help keep both of you safe and well.

How can I keep myself and the person I care for safe from infection?

  1. Wash your hands frequently throughout the day for at least 20 second with hot water and soap.
  2. Avoid touching your hands and face.
  3. Cover any coughs and sneezes with a tissue and dispose of them.
  4. Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces in your house.
  5. Ask anyone coming into your house to wash their hand on arrival and regularly throughout their visit for 20 seconds with soap and water.

Is it OK for me go to the supermarket, or to get some fresh air?

You can leave your house to buy food, get some fresh air or for medical reasons. The person you care for can join you when you leave the house, unless they been identified as 'extremely vulnerable'. People who have been identified as extremely vulnerable are advised to stay inside at all times. 

While you are outside of the house, it is important to stay at least 2 metres away from people. When you get home, wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water.

Can I go out if the person I care for has been advised to shield?

If the person you look after has been classed as 'extremely vulnerable', the Government has said they need to shield - this means not leaving the house until at least the end of June. 

While that doesn’t mean you can’t leave the house, it does mean that you would need to avoid being in shared spaces with the person you care for and would have to try to stay 2 metres away at all times if you decided to go out. That might mean sitting in different rooms during the day and sleeping separately at night.

We know this is impractical for people who are providing personal care and you may decide that it’s easier for your household to live comfortably if you also follow shielding measures and do not leave the house. This is completely your choice.

What help is available to get food and essentials?

If you need help getting food and other essentials, speak to friends, family members or voluntary organisations about how they can help you and the person you care for. 

You can self-refer for help from NHS volunteers by calling 0808 196 3646 or by visiting the Royal Voluntary Service website

Your local council or health care provider should also be able to support you. If you don’t know how to get in touch with them, contact NHS 111.

Remember to register for NHS support if you or someone you care for has been identified as extremely vulnerable. 

Can carers still come to our house?

We know some people are worried about allowing carers into their home but it’s important that you continue to receive support. If someone, perhaps a friend, neighbour or paid carer, usually comes to your house to help with essential care for you or the person you care for, then they can carry on doing so. By following hygiene advice, you can reduce the risks. 

Anyone coming into your home should wash their hands when they arrive and frequently during their visit, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds.  Don’t feel awkward asking someone to do this, even if they have been helping you for many years- it is to protect them, as well as people in your household. 

They should not come to your house if they, or someone in their household, develops symptoms of coronavirus. If they live alone or are the first person to develop symptoms in their household, then they will be able to visit you again after 7 days, provided they no longer have a fever. If they live with other people, they should stay inside for 14 days from the time the first person in their household develops symptoms. If during this time they develop symptoms themselves, then they should stay at home for 7 days from the day their own symptoms develop. 

Can friends and relatives still come over?

No. To make sure you are protecting everyone in the house, you should now chat to friends and family over the phone, through email or video calls. 

What should I do if the person I care for develops coronavirus symptoms?

Most people get coronavirus should be able to recover at home and many people will only have mild symptoms. 

However, you should contact the NHS if the person you care for: 

  • doesn’t feel better after 7 days
  • has symptoms that are getting worse
  • doesn’t feel they can cope with the symptoms at home.

If that's the case, call 111 or use the NHS online coronavirus serviceDo not go to your doctor’s surgery or to hospital.

If you care for someone who has been classed as 'extremely vulnerable' and advised to shield you should contact 111 straight away if they develop symptoms of coronavirus. If they are seriously ill, you should contact 999 immediately. 

If you need urgent medical help, whether or not you have coronavirus symptoms, you should contact 111 or call 999 in an emergency.

How should I care for someone if they have coronavirus?

If you have been identified as 'extremely vulnerable', you should find alternative care arrangements for the person you care for if they develop symptoms of coronavirus.

You should also take precautions to prevent the infection being passed on. This will include avoiding being in the same room as the person you care for and making sure you stay 2 metres away at all times. We know this will be difficult, but it's important to protect your health.

If you are not classed as 'extremely vulnerable' you can continue to provide care, but it's a good idea to put extra precautions in place where possible. The extent to which you can follow these will depend on the level of care you provide. Do as much as you can:

  • Try to only provide care which is essential, such as washing, dressing, or feeding. Try to spend as little time in the same room with each other as you can. We know this might be hard and feel unsettling. 
  • If you can, sleep in separate beds and use different bathrooms. Do not share towels and regularly disinfect the surfaces in your house. 
  • Everyone should wash their hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water. Make sure you do this every time you have provided care. 
  • Try to use separate cutlery and crockery. If you have a dishwasher use this to clean all cutlery and crockery, otherwise make sure that you use washing up liquid and warm water to clean and then dry up thoroughly. If you are using separate cutlery and crockery, use a different towel to dry up.

If anyone in your household develops symptoms of coronavirus you will also all need to self-isolate. The first person in the household to develop symptoms of coronavirus should stay at home for at least 7 days. If after 7 days they still have a high temperature, they should stay inside until it returns to normal.

Everyone else in the household will need to stay inside for 14 days, or until they develop symptoms themselves. If they do develop symptoms they should then stay at home for 7 days from the point at which symptoms develop, even if that means staying inside for longer than the 14 days. 

There's advice from the Government on how to manage if you're staying at home.

What will happen to the person I care for if I need to self-isolate because of coronavirus?

The Government advises that if you develop symptoms of coronavirus, you should stop providing care. You should also try to distance yourself from other members of your household, including the person you care for, by staying in separate rooms, and staying 2 metres away from other members of your household at all times.  

We know this will be difficult for live-in-carers and is likely to cause anxiety and stress. Putting in place arrangements in advance can help you to feel prepared.

Think about any friends or family who could step in. Find out in advance if they would be able to help and if the person you care for would be comfortable with this arrangement. In some circumstances you may need to ask if the person you care for can move in with friends and family. This is likely to be the case if you provide a high level of support or if the person you care for is extremely vulnerable. This is a big ask and you may feel worried about making the request. Many people want to help and might be able to provide more support than they have in the past. 

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. 

Many carer support groups are still running. Look at Carers UK website to find which organisations operate in your area. Get in contact now to see what services they could offer if you fall unwell. 

It’s a good idea to also develop an emergency plan so that anyone who takes over caring has the information they need. You can include:

  • the name and address and any other contact details of the person you look after
  • who you and the person you look after would like to be contacted in an emergency
  • details of any medication the person you look after is taking
  • details of any ongoing treatment they need
  • details of any medical appointments they need to keep.

Coronavirus is placing a strain on my relationships. What can I do?

Not being able to leave the house may mean you are spending more time than usual with the person you care for. Respite services which you previously attended may also have been postponed, meaning you aren’t having breaks. 

This can be tough and place a strain on your relationship with the person you care for. It can help to talk about how you are feeling with a trusted friend or relative. 

If possible, you should also try to have an honest conversation with the person you care for about how you are feeling. Think about things you can both do to make this time easier for each other and how you can communicate your feelings going forward. Plan fun activities that you both enjoy, like watching a film or spending some time in the garden together. 

It’s also important that you allocate some time each day to focus on yourself, away from others. It can help if you build a certain time into your routine each day, so you have something to look forward to. This can be difficult for someone with full-time caring responsibilities, but even 10 minutes a day can make a difference. 

I'm struggling with my mental health. What support is available to help?

Caring for someone can be difficult at the best of times, but the current situation can cause additional anxiety and pressure. 

You may be worried about the health of the person that you care for or concerned that they may not get the support they usually receive. Services you previously relied on, such as paid-for-carers or respite services, may have been paused, which can leave you feeling alone and impact on your mental health. 

You may feel angry, frustrated, upset or worried about what is happening. You are doing your best in a very difficult and unexpected situation. 

It is more important than ever that you look after your own well-being.  Make sure you carve out some time in the day to have space for yourself and do the things you enjoy. 

You may find it helpful to speak with other carers who are going through the same experiences as you. There are many ways to do this:

  • Carers UK enable carers to chat with one another through an online forum. They also have an app, Jointly, which connects carers with one another. 
  • Mobilise, an organisation providing coronavirus support, are hosting a virtual ‘cuppa’ for carers every day at 4pm. All carers are welcome to come and chat. 
  • Many local carer support groups are working hard to continue helping carers at this time. Carers UK can direct you to groups working in your area.