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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?

There are some simple steps you can follow to help keep yourself and the person you care for safe. If you or the person you care for have been told to shield it’s particularly important to follow these.

  • Wash your hands frequently throughout the day for at least 20 second with hot water and soap.
  • Avoid touching your hands and face when you’re providing care.
  • Cover any coughs and sneezes with a tissue and dispose of them.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces in your house.
  • Ask anyone coming into your house to wash their hand on arrival and regularly throughout their visit for 20 seconds with soap and water.
  • When out and about maintain a distance of 2 metres from anyone not in your household or support bubble where possible.
  • If you or anyone else in your house develops symptoms of coronavirus you may want to consider wearing a facemask in your house when spending time in shared spaces.
  • If it’s possible for you to do so wear a face covering in places where it’s mandatory to do so (for example on public transport and in shops) and you may want to consider wearing one in other places where social distancing is more difficult, if you’re visiting someone else's home for example.

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. If you haven’t already you should think about making a contingency plan in the event that you can’t provide care.

Any 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?

It might also be reassuring to involve your local council, health care provider or formal care provider in case informal arrangements fall through. Local carers organisations can help with contingency planning and we would suggest look at Carers UK website for more information.

If the person you care for is classed as clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable you should see if they’re able to temporarily move in with friends or family while you are self-isolating.

If this isn’t possible you should try to distance yourself from the person you care for, as well as other members of your household, by staying in separate rooms and cleaning shared spaces after use. You may also want to consider wearing a face covering inside the house especially when using shared spaces.

How can I organise alternative care arrangements?

If you’re unable to provide care during this time, either because you or the person you care for has developed symptoms of coronavirus, you’re likely to feel stressed and anxious.

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.  

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.  

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.

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

If the person you care for develops symptoms of coronavirus you should arrange a coronavirus test for them straight away and follow government guidelines on self-isolation. 

Most people who get coronavirus should be able to recover at home and many people will only have mild symptoms. You can carry on caring for the person unless you are considered ‘clinically vulnerable’ or ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ and originally told you should ‘shield’.

You should contact the NHS if the person you care for:

  • has symptoms that are getting worse
  • doesn’t feel they can cope with the symptoms at home
  • feel breathless and it's getting worse.

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

If you care for someone who has been classed as clinically 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’ve been identified as extremely clinically vulnerable or clinically 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. 

If you're staying in the same household there are still things you can do to help reduce the risks. You should avoid being in the same room as the person you care for and make sure you stay 2 metres away from each other at all times.  We know this will be difficult and upsetting, but it's important to protect your health.

If you're not classed as extremely clinically vulnerable or clinically 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, and they should book a test. Guidance on what to do varies depending on the results of the test.

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

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 Isle of Wight Council can help. You can call  01983 823600 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday, and between 10am and 3pm at weekends.

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 have:

  • Developed symptoms of coronavirus and are waiting for test results.
  • Have tested positive for coronavirus.
  • Have been advised to self-isolate by the test and trace service.

Live in a household with someone who has a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus.

Can friends and relatives still come over?

At the moment, the rules are that you can only spend time with up to six people at a time – this is often referred to as 'the rule of six'.

This applies to gatherings both inside and outside and children are included in the group of six. That means, for example, that a couple with three children can only meet up with one person from another household.

These restrictions differ depending on where you live due to local lockdown restrictions.

You can find out more about local lockdowns are where they're happening here.

There's also an interactive map which highlights the affected areas. You can find that here.

There are some exceptions rules around spending time with others and this includes if care needs to be provided. If friends and family help you to provide care to someone, you can exceed the rule of six or restrictions on seeing people outside of your household.

If family and friend do come over either to help provide care or to spend time with you where allowed in government guidance, here are some things to think about:

  • You should stay at least 2 metres away from anyone who isn’t part of your household or support bubble. If this isn't possible, you should stay at least 1 metre away and take extra precautions, such as wearing a face covering.
  • Everyone should follow hygiene measures, including washing your hands regularly and avoiding touching your face and eyes.
  • Try not to share equipment with people outside of your household. If you are having someone round see if they can bring their own things like chairs, plates and cutlery. If they can’t do this, anything they use should be disinfected before and after they have used it. If you're eating together, don't pass food or drinks to anyone outside your household or support bubble.
  • The risk of transmitting coronavirus is much lower in outdoor spaces so where possible it may be best to spend time with others not in your household outside. If this isn’t possible you may want to consider keeping rooms well ventilated and rearranging furniture to allow for social distancing.

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

Many of us are leaving the house less that we’re used to and this 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’re 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?

If the person you look after has been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, the Government has advised they need to shield. This previously meant not leaving the house at all, but from 6 July people who are shielding are able to leave the house to go outside into open spaces with up to 5 people from different households, while while maintaining strict social distancing measures

This means that if you care for someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable you can spend time outside together, but it is best to avoid busy places. At this time people who are clinically extremely vulnerable are advised not to go to enclosed spaces like supermarkets or be with big groups.  

As a carer who isn't shielding you can visit supermarkets and meet people in indoor and outdoor spaces, in line with Government guidance. If you do choose to do this, make sure you take hygiene precautions, including washing your hands regularly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, and staying two metres away from anyone outside of your household or support bubble.  

Government guidance has changed, so if you live with someone clinically extremely vulnerable you don't need to socially distance from them at home. However, there are steps you can take to remain as safe as possible. These include:

  • Regularly disinfect surfaces, including kitchen surfaces and, if you are sharing a bathroom, bathroom surfaces and toilets after every use.  
  • Thoroughly clean and dry utensils and cutlery in a dishwasher or with washing-up liquid and water.   

Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.  

Some carers may decide to follow the same measures as the clinically extremely vulnerable person in their household. For example, they may decide to stay in as much as possible and only go outside with members of their own household, avoiding shops and other indoor spaces outside of the home. This is completely your choice. 

I'm caring for someone with dementia

Caring for someone living with dementia is likely to be more challenging at this time. The person you care for may find it difficult to understand why they are being asked to stay inside or forget to follow guidelines. They may feel anxious about the changes and become distressed.

As a carer for someone with dementia, this can be difficult and upsetting, but there is support to help.

Dementia Carer’s Count also have information to support you.

I'm caring for someone with a terminal illness

Looking after someone at the end of their life can be distressing and difficult at the best of times but the coronavirus pandemic may make things even harder.

Without visits from friends and family, you may feel like you have to cope alone. You may also be worried that your loved ones won’t be able to say goodbye to the person you care for.

You’re likely to go through a range of emotions: anger, sadness, frustration, and resentment are all common.

Marie Curie has advice and information to help you through this difficult time.