Carers v Covid-19
Covid-19 update 9 April 2020
Covid-19 is incredibly worrying for caregivers. At the moment, it feels like we’re having to fend for ourselves while the authorities get organised. The Government is understandably strengthening the NHS front line first, then I hope we’ll get some advice and even personal protective equipment (PPE) support for close-up care in the home. Thankfully our supermarkets and communities are organising to support us, we are grateful for this.
In the meantime, here’s a page on support I’ve pulled together. I’ll update it daily for as long as I’m able. If you spot anything I should share here, please email or tweet me and I’ll publish it.
New: More guidance on home made face masks and how to make them (even if you don't sew), new help when grocery shopping and the newly consolidated government advice for unpaid carers, including the emergency plan.
Official guidance on Covid-19 here
- The latest government advice is found here. We should all be self isolating unless we are key workers or on essential trips.
- The official government channels for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are found here at Carers Trust
- Check if you have the symptoms of Covid-19 here
- NEW at 9 April – specific government guidance for unpaid carers is now collated here. This helpfully includes definitions of ‘vulnerable’ and ‘extremely vulnerable’ people. If you’d like an emergency plan template, use my downloadable one here.
- Specific guidance on Covid-19 for carers is also found at Carers UK
- The new Corona Virus Bill and emergency measures will impact all carers going forward. See the Carers UK press release here.
- Extra guidance for those living with dementia: Dementia UK and Alzheimer’s Society
Act for the ‘extremely vulnerable’ now
If the person you’re looking after has a medical condition that makes them ‘extremely vulnerable’, you can register with the Government here for support (such as getting deliveries of essential food). These people need shielding urgently. You’ll need their NHS number handy, find this on a paper prescription.
Advice for carers who work
I’ve long been a fan of consumer champion Martin Lewis. Martin summarises the options for carers who are employed or self-employed in non-essential roles, on his website here moneysavingexpert.com.
Hand sanitiser recipe
Hand sanitiser* (60% alcohol) and other personal protective equipment for close up care like latex/plastic gloves, aprons and masks I hope can be distributed to paid and family carers soon. In the meantime ordinary rubber gloves, soap and water (or any foaming cleansing stuff) and other Heath Robinson household items will have to do. Some mouthwashes contain alcohol and some anti-bac household cleaning sprays like Dettol claim virus killing capability (though not specifically Covid-19 of course).
In case you can lay your hands on the ingredients, here’s a recipe for sanitiser
How to make hand sanitiser ('off the internet' and untested) Ingredients: - 3/4 cup of isopropyl or rubbing alcohol (99 percent)* - 1/4 cup of aloe vera gel* (to help keep your hands smooth and to counter the harshness of the alcohol). - 10 drops of essential oil*, eg lavender oil, or use lemon juice instead. *Boots is most likely to have these. You could try health food shops and supermarkets too. Pour all ingredients into a measuring jug. Mix with a spoon, then beat with a whisk to make a gel. Pour the gel into an empty squeezy or pump bottle and label “hand sanitiser”. You may need a funnel.
Make your own face mask
We’re starting to hear how face masks could be a good option to slow virus transmission – if used properly. Here’s a website that explains why and offers three options for making simple masks from household materials. There are YouTube videos showing how to make more elaborate masks if you have a sewing machine or more confident.
This is a summary on the efficacy of home made masks from Radio 4 ‘More or Less’ programme (listen from 13:44) on 8 April 2020 based on the ‘known’ science:
There are no randomised tests that prove benefits of mask usage. And home made masks are not as effective as surgical masks, BUT a well made mask could help stop a person with Covid-19 but not showing symptoms (asymptomatic) from spreading the disease. Masks could also protect healthy individuals if they are taken off from the back of the head, washed carefully and immediately after use, in addition to all other social distancing measures. The best material is a cotton blend rather than pure cotton and vacuum cleaner bags are proven to be the best found-in-household filters. The mask must fit snugly over the nose and mouth.More or Less, Radio 4, 8 April 2020
- Before first use, wash your mask in hot water and soap for at least 10 minutes and dry thoroughly.
- Adding kitchen paper (or better, vacuum filter paper) between the inner and outer fabric layers of the mask acts as a filter. Two layers of kitchen paper placed at a 90 degree angle to each other is effective. Don’t have the filter directly next to your mouth in case of allergy.
- Every day, after using the mask, remove and discard the kitchen paper and always hand wash the mask with hot soapy water. Dry thoroughly. and iron to keep its shape.
- Make sure you can tell the front of the mask from the rear (by your nose and mouth), so should you take the mask off, you put the same side as before against your face (it’s dangerous to switch sides).
- Cover your nose and mouth with the mask and don’t touch your face once it’s on. Remove it from the back of the mask.
- Critically, all other measures eg 2m distancing and hand washing etc still apply.
Carer grocery shopping hours
Special hours for carers vary. Details are going up on supermarket websites and this infographic summarises nationally published times. They need checking on a store by store basis though. Where we can, let’s leave the earliest hours for NHS staff and older people on essential trips. Let’s leave supermarket home delivery slots for the extremely vulnerable. If we’re able, let’s use main shopping hours safely. I’m starting to find the end of day easier for social distancing.
Kudos to Asda who are the first to launch a volunteer card so that it’s easier to handle inter-neighbourly cash transactions. Sainsbury’s have said they will follow soon.
Sainsbury’s are promoting an app that allows you to scan, fill your bag with groceries and pay without having to unload and reload your shopping at a check-out. This potentially reduces queue times and risk of infection. Worth exploring this and other grocery store apps.
Some pubs and community hubs are starting grocery delivery schemes for people who shouldn’t or can’t go to the supermarket.
We can also support others less fortunate than us by donating money (if not food) to food banks, without putting ourselves at risk. Check local Facebook and Nextdoor groups or ask around for details, good news travels as fast. If easier, you can give money nationally to The Trussel Trust who will ensure food reaches people who need it.
How can we boost our immunity against Covid-19
Giving up smoking and alcohol, good quality sleep, a balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and veg all helps our immune system. A vitamin D supplement during these months is wise, especially for those who rarely leave the house.
Exercise is the most important thing we should all do more of, Covid-19 or not. We can still leave the house for a walk/run/cycle once a day (at least 30mins for full benefit). Otherwise squats and star jumps inside or out are great. As long as we keep well spaced out from each other. There are lots of PE sessions online now if you have access to internet. There’ll be local trainers posting virtual classes to do in your home, please support them. Otherwise PE with Joe Wicks at 9am is good for all the family. The Green Goddess and Mr Motivator are back on TV too.
For house or chair-bound people any increase in exercise is good for getting your virus-fighting white blood cells whooshing round the body. Lot’s of YouTube videos are popping up, do as much as you can.
Useful contacts in Oxon/Bucks and beyond
If, for whatever reason you are starting to feel overwhelmed by care duties, click here to find local carers support groups. Most have updated their websites to accommodate Covid-19 self isolation. Please don’t wait until you’re on your knees, contact social services and trust them to prioritise their caseload.
Bucks Council Support
Other councils will sure to be updating their home pages too. Use your postcode to find your local council (and what they’re doing to help) here.
Bucks council is establishing eight local support hubs around the county in the following locations:
- Buckingham Library
- Chesham Library
- Princes Risborough Library
- Marlow Library
- Beaconsfield Library
- Wycombe District Council offices
- Chiltern District Council offices
- The Gateway in Aylesbury
Support from these hubs is intended for the ‘extremely vulnerable’ (see above) and who don’t have access to family, friends or local support networks. These hubs will be coordination and distribution points for Bucks Council volunteer networks (not ‘drop in’ centres for the public and not open to the general public).
National Covid-19 community support
People helping the vulnerable can carry on with the fantastic work they’re doing as long as they’re not showing symptoms. Community support groups that fetch shopping and prescriptions and are happy to call for a chat are springing up around us. Local Facebook groups (search under your village/town) and Nextdoor seem to be the most used, depending where you live. Ask a friend or a teen to set you up using a fake DOB if you’re wary (remotely, or by observing health protocols of course).
Find (and register) any local community support group, by post code, at CovidMutualAid.org.
If you’re able to safely collect shopping or prescriptions yourself, within current government guidelines, why not offer help to your local volunteer group. Look out for local requests for loans of garden furniture, paint and craft material, fitness equipment, desks and chairs to help occupy seniors or children in multi-generational households.
If you just fancy a ‘virtual chat’ with other carers who ‘get’ it, Mobilise run daily ‘virtual cuppas’ at 4pm every day. You can sign up for this and other useful info here.
Staying in touch with friends and family
The phone is great, but it’s nice to see a friendly face nowadays too. I’ve listed the apps that my friends and I are all finding easiest for ‘domestic’ use. Go on, have a go, they all have ‘help’ sections and you can google how to use them too. Vogue (!?) have published a good guide here.
WhatsApp and FaceTime, at least, work well on 4G (check your phone’s plan so you don’t pay through the nose for data). I’ve only used Zoom with WiFi. You’ll soon find your own favourite.
WhatsApp - best for mobile phone/tablet, for up to 4 people. Facetime - best for iPhones and iPads for up to 32 people on a call. Zoom - free for 2 people. I find best on pc/lap top or tablet. For 3 or more people (up to 100) you can have up to 40 mins free. Tip - ask a friend or volunteer who knows how to use these apps to send you a meeting invite via your phone number or email. You'll be prompted to download software which makes it easier for newbies and you'll get a faster feel for whether you like it.
If you know someone who doesn’t have access to tech or the internet, now of all times, it’s totally OK for them to ask their community for help. There are local people organised and ready to support them. If you’re a remote carer, ring a grocer near where your elder lives. Chances are someone there will be plugged into the local volunteering network and able to help your loved one.
There are phone lines available for the very isolated, but I’d prefer we mobilise to visit them face to face (from 2 metres away).
Age UK 0800 678 1602 (free) 8am - 7pm every day for older people, their carers, families and professionals Silverline 0800 4 70 80 90 (free) open 24hrs a day for anyone over 55yrs old who needs friendship, help or advice
Other useful info in this blog
- Make sure you have an emergency plan in case you’re off your feet and have to pause caring duties for a spell
- Be prepared should you need to admit your elder into hospital but follow the guidance given by 111 or the paramedics on the day
- Get acquainted with local older adult social services for when we emerge from the crisis
- These stress reducing tips might help you if you’re already overwhelmed
- This blog’s contents list is here, in case you want to explore LPA’s and other benefits while you’re isolating.
Look after yourself too
Last but not least, you. A luxury like a face mask is great, but perhaps equally helpful:
- stay as active as possible try exercises (even in a chair or around the house). Get outside once a day if you’re able, at least open a window if it’s a bit milder.
- do that task you’ve been meaning to do (it’s strangely calming)
- regularly connect with others over the phone or by video (see above)
- try activities like reading, jigsaws, listening to music, knitting, watching tv and listening to the radio (limiting the news)
- give and receive hand, neck and foot massages, hair brushing, smelling flowers
- make some art
- do a reminiscence activity together by building a life story
- if you have a tablet, download A Better Visit. This Australian app features two-player games that encourage positive social interactions between people with dementia, their carers and families
- watch animals in zoos live-streaming their animals! Just google.
- culture vultures can peruse the Guggenheim museum, take a (virtual) walk through national parks or visit the Taj Mahal at Google Arts & Culture. The Metropolitan Opera in New York City is streaming full performances online free here and on Thursday nights, the National Theatre will be streaming incredible theatre on YouTube, more detail here.
Good luck friends, take care. With love and more soon x