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To help stop the spread of Coronavirus and safeguard the health of those at greatest risk, the Government has said we all need to stay at home, only leaving for limited reasons and not at all if we are in a high risk group. This is to reduce close contact with other people and help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Being asked to stay at home and stop having close contact with family and friends probably sounds difficult. You might be feeling worried, scared, sad or even a bit angry. That’s normal, but it’s important to know you’re not alone.

Age UK Sunderland is here to support you during this challenging time. We’ve outlined some tips to help stay safe and well over the coming weeks.

Social distancing

This means people who are not at very high risk should only leave the house for limited purposes. These are:

  1. Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible and online delivery used wherever available.
  2. One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household.
  3. Any medical need, or to provide care and essential support to a vulnerable person.
  4. Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

The Government has made clear that these four reasons are exceptions and you should not otherwise leave your home.

For these activities you should continue to observe the advice to remain at least 2 metres apart from others (excluding members of your own household) and minimise time outside.

The Government has also closed all non-essential shops and community spaces, as well as all gatherings of more than two people in public.


Self-isolation

There are a few reasons why you may need to self-isolate at home.

  1. If you or someone in your household has symptoms of the virus – a dry cough and/or a high temperature – then the Government has instructed you to ‘self-isolate’ at home. Current advice is to self-isolate at home for 7 days if you have symptoms, or 14 days if it is another member of your household.
  2. You are considered in an ‘at risk’ group and have been told by the Government you must stay at home and not leave for the next 12 weeks. The NHS will write to you directly with additional information if this is the case. In the meantime, check the NHS website if you are unsure.

Either way, this means you have to avoid all social contact, remaining in your home and only allowing essential visitors, such as NHS or care workers.

If you need to have something delivered or if family and friends are bringing shopping or other essentials, then they should drop them to the doorstep.

If you are considered in the ‘at risk’ group, your letter from the NHS will provide you with more information about how you can get support at home with shopping for essentials.

What do I do if I live in a shared space?

If you live with others there are some simple steps and precautions to take if you have symptoms, including:

  • Staying physically apart as much as possible. Sleep in separate rooms and use different bathrooms if you can, and minimise the amount of time you spend in shared spaces such as the kitchen. Try and stay at least 2 metres (3 steps) apart.
  • Regularly disinfecting frequently used surfaces such as kitchen counters.
  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly. Make sure to sneeze or cough into tissues, your elbow or sleeve. Dispose of tissues straight afterwards.
  • Don’t share food or use the same towels or crockery. Make sure anything has been washed thoroughly before it’s used by someone else.

I'm worried about being scammed. What can I do?

Lots of people are offering to help and support to anyone in their communities who are staying at home. Although the majority of people offering help are genuine and do so for good reasons, sadly, there may be some who try to take advantage of this situation for their own gains. 

If someone you don't know offers you help, try to find out more about them. You don't need to accept an offer from someone who turns up on your doorstep. Ask where they live and how you can contact them before you decide you need help.

  • Don't feel pressured to accept help from a stranger.
  • Don't hand over money to someone you don’t know who is offering to help you. Offers of help for most things should be free of charge.
  • If someone offers to do your shopping, ask for a receipt so you can pay them to cover the cost of the items. 
  • If someone claims to be from a recognised organisation, don't be afraid to ask to see proof or check with the organisation itself.

What can I do if someone I live with becomes abusive?

Domestic abuse is any form of abuse committed by a partner, former partner or family member (this includes harming older parents).

People often think of domestic abuse affecting younger people, but any person, any age, any gender can experience it.

Living in close proximity with someone for a prolonged period can potentially worsen any existing issues. If you are self-isolating and live with someone who you feel at risk from, seeking help may be difficult especially if you're reliant on them for help.

If this happens there are people you can speak to and there is help available. You can get support and advice from:

  • Call Age UK Sunderland (9am –5pm 5 days a week) 0191 514 1131 or enquiries@ageuksunderland.org.uk
  • Adult Social Services at your local council
  • Your GP or other NHS health providers
  • Domestic Abuse helpline 0808 2000 247 helpline@womensaid.org.uk
  • The Silver Line 0800 4 70 80 (24 hours a day)
  • Action on Elder Abuse helpline: 0808 808 8141
  • The police – you can call the local police on the 101 non-emergency number or call 999 immediately in an emergency.

Stay in touch

Staying in touch with family and friends is very important. Making time for regular phone calls and staying in touch online if possible are great ways to keep in contact when we can’t meet face to face.

If you have a mobile phone or computer, now is the ideal time to set up Skype or video calling so you can still see each other. Consider signing up to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram if you haven’t already – it can be a great way to stay in touch and find out what’s happening in your local community.

Think about ways to get creative. Could some of your usual social activities move online or to phone calls? Can you ‘meet up’ with friends or family by arranging a video chat over a coffee or a meal?


Keep busy

Try to keep up with your normal hobbies and activities as far as possible. Whether you’re a keen knitter, a gardening enthusiast or crossword champion, make sure you have plenty of supplies to keep you going. You can order what you need online or ask someone to pick up what you need.

Explore options for online alternatives, such as digital subscriptions for papers and magazines, e-books or streaming services for music and films. There are also lots of ways to play group games online as well.

It’s time to get creative. If you belong to clubs that can no longer meet face to face, can they still go ahead by phone or online? Now may also be a good time to set yourself a goal, learn a new skill, or take on a group challenge.


Get active

Staying active is hugely important – as the saying goes, ‘use it or lose it’, and this is particularly important around physical activity.

If you haven’t been advised to self-isolate, you can still go out for a walk, jog or bike ride. Just take care to go at times and to places where you are unlikely to come into close contact with others. Team sports are sadly off the agenda for now.

Ask for help

Talk to family, friends and neighbours to let them know how they can help. Many communities are also organising local support groups as well. Don’t be afraid to ask!

Explore what you can do by phone or online.


Essential supplies

Make a list of the things you need day to day including food, household essentials and medication.

Check on what you’ve got and what you may need to order or buy in the next few days. Don’t forget the things you may want to keep going with hobbies and interests at home.

There is no need to stockpile. Shops and pharmacies will keep refreshing their supplies. Many shops are also restricting access to the wider public at particular times of day to allow older people to shop first. Check with your local supermarket.     

But it is important to note that it may take longer than usual to receive deliveries to your home so do plan ahead, particularly if you have your usual prescriptions delivered. If you have any concerns about your medication, or worried you’re running low, then talk to your pharmacist.

If you are considered in an ‘at risk’ group you will be receiving a letter from the NHS which provides you with more information on how the Government will support you to stay at home and not leave the house. This includes information on how to let them know if you need help getting food supplies.


Being prepared

Think about other things it would be useful to prepare, this may include:

  • keeping to hand a list of useful telephone numbers – as well as family and friends this could include your GP, local council, carers, local pharmacy and delivery services.
  • having a list of your medications and important medical information to hand.
  • if you have a mobile phone and/or access to the internet, think about how you could use them to help (e.g. online shopping, video calls, sending and receiving emails and messages) and check you are confident you know how.
  • do you need to keep some cash at home?
  • if you are on a pay as you go gas or electricity, is it topped up?

Medical appointments

The NHS are trying to reduce the number of people visiting hospitals. This is to stop the spread of coronavirus and to protect the NHS.

Cancer treatment and clinically urgent care will still be treated as a priority, but your treatment plan might be reviewed.  Your clinical team will talk to you and answer questions you may have about any changes to your treatment or appointments. This is a worrying time for everyone. For support, take a look at Macmillan’s guidance on coronavirus for cancer patients.

There’s going to be some changes to outpatient appointments. Some people will be asked to have their appointment over the phone or by online video consultation. Other patients will find their appointment has been rearranged or cancelled for now.

Patients who need to have their appointments face-to-face will be asked not to bring a friend or relative with them, unless completely necessary.

Most hospitals will contact patients with changes to their appointments, but if you haven’t heard you could look at the hospital’s website for guidance.

All non-emergency operations are being suspended for at least three months. This is to help keep patients safe and to make sure the NHS have the resources they need to tackle coronavirus.

This will include hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery, as well as minor surgery.  We know lot of people people will have already been waiting a long time for their treatment and this news might be frustrating for some, but keeping the coronavirus under control must be the top priority at this time.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, or a member of your household does, you must not go to your hospital appointment. Instead, you should contact your doctor to organise receiving treatment in an alternative way.

If you have health conditions which make you extremely vulnerable to coronavirus and have been advised to shield, then you should contact your GP or specialist for advice on how to continue receiving your care and treatment.


Care and support

I already have social care, what will happen to it?

If you normally receive care and support in your own home this should continue even if you become unwell and are advised to self-isolate.

Care staff have received additional information and guidance about how to look after people and ensure the virus doesn’t spread.

However, care services may be busier than usual and will no doubt also have some staff that need to take time off unwell. As a result you might experience changes to your normal services such as seeing different care workers or receiving visits at different times of day.

If you have concerns or are experiencing difficulties getting the help you need, contact your care provider and/or your local council for help.

I don’t have social care currently, but what if my needs change?

If you feel your needs have changed and you can no longer cope at home without support, you should contact your local authority and speak to them about this.

It is expected that care services will be busier than usual over the coming weeks and months and as such you may have to wait longer than usual to get support.

It might be a good idea to talk to family, friends or trusted neighbours to see if they can help you in the meantime.

Hospital discharge

If you are currently in hospital or are admitted as a result of coronavirus support will be arranged for you when you are discharged.

This is in part due to the Government’s response to ensure hospitals have the space they need to support people who are unwell because of coronavirus. The hospital and your local authority will arrange care to support you to live at home.