Carers v Covid-19
Covid-19 update 4 Nov 2020
Covid-19 is incredibly worrying for caregivers. It still feels like we’re having to fend for ourselves. Thankfully charities, local authorities, supermarkets and communities have organised to support us, we’re grateful for this.
This page pulls together all the support I can find, so we can all quickly reference it. If you spot anything I should share here, please email or tweet me and I’ll publish it.
New: 4/11/2020, New guidelines for visiting loved ones in care homes. And about time if you don't mind me saying (not dissing the care homes).
Official guidance on Covid-19 here
It’s getting harder and harder to collate all the guidance in one place, but here goes:
- Guidance for England after 5 November is here.
- Guidance for visiting loved ones in a care home after 4 November is here.
- The latest government advice is found here.
- (Until 5 November, find out what alert level your region is at here.)
- (Find out what we are and are not allowed to do until 5 November, within the three alert levels here.)
- Check if you have symptoms of Covid-19 here
- Specific government guidance for unpaid carers is now collated here. This helpfully includes definitions of ‘vulnerable’ and ‘extremely vulnerable’ people.
- Specific guidance on Covid-19 for carers is also found at Carers UK
- Changes to carers’ benefits highlighted by Carers UK
- If you need an emergency care plan template, use my free, easy to download version here.
- 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
- Help with managing our mental health at this time is helpfully outlined by rehab4addiction.
- Advice for carers who work: customer champion Martin Lewis summarises the options for carers who are employed or self-employed on his website. He now has a dedicated Corona Virus page on moneysavingexpert.com and you can sign up for his helpful emails.
Are you showing symptoms?
Unpaid carers in England showing symptoms of Covid-19 were granted ‘key workers status’ on 4 May and are now eligible for testing. For more details and how to self refer, click here.
Alternatively, as of August 2020, anyone can book a test ‘direct’ here. You must have a test within 5 days of onset of symptoms, so book a test as soon as possible. Day 1 – 4 of symptoms you can have a test at home (order by 3pm on day 4) or at a test site (the only option for day 5).
Shielding and supporting the ‘extremely vulnerable’
If the person you’re looking after has a medical condition that makes them ‘extremely vulnerable’ to Covid-19, government information has been collated here (from 1 June). You can register on the same page for support (such as getting deliveries of essential food). To register you’ll need your NHS number handy which you’ll find on a paper prescription.
As of 12 Oct, there are exceptions to ‘social mixing’ even when alert levels are very high. Thankfully, we can visit someone who is dying, to provide assistance to someone who is vulnerable, to attend a formally organised support group, to provide emergency assistance and more (scroll down to ‘Meeting family and friends‘.
At 5 November of course, we revert to new the measures.
Care Homes are opening to visitors
Care homes did have the green light to complete risk assessments and make plans for visitors. However, this is now under review and we’ll likely hear new guidance before 5 Nov, until then we can follow existing advice. Full pre-5 Nov information is on this official page but as is broadly as follows (due to the individual design of care homes may ask more of you):
- wear a face covering and wash your hands thoroughly before putting it on and after taking it off,
- wear appropriate PPE depending on the purpose of your visit, including gloves and aprons,
- your visit may be safest in a communal outdoor area,
- wherever possible, a single constant visitor, where possible, lowers risk for everyone
Do you need help with shopping or prescriptions?
The Royal Voluntary Service & NHS Responders now support vulnerable people and their unpaid, family carers. They offer a shopping, prescription collection and ‘friendly chat’ service. Carers can make a referral for the person they care for or make a referral for themselves if it supports their caring role. You can call them on 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm) to make a referral. Even if you can manage right now, you might want to add these details to your emergency care plan.
Financial Support for carers
Consumers’ champion Which has published a guide for carers on ways to save money during this time, it’s definitely worth a look.
Hand sanitiser is now available in high street shops. Make sure yours contains at least 60% alcohol. I prefer the less viscous alcohol ‘rub’ that you can spray on and is less sticky after frequent application.
Covid-19 is killed by soap, isopropyl alcohol (at least 60%), hydrogen peroxide (household grade, 3%), 4 teaspoons of bleach to 1 litre of water or Milton sterilising solution. Check shop bought formulations specifically say they work on viruses (anti-viral) eg Dettol. Anti-bacterial formulations alone don’t work on corona virus.
Google ‘how to make masks’ and you’ll get lots of tutorials showing you how to make DIY face coverings. There’s even official government guidance now. There are ‘no sew’ options (hurrah) through to ‘expert sewer’ options. Check your local Facebook groups for local crafters making face coverings / masks from fabric offcuts. They’re about £5-£7 and you can even ask them to make one in your preferred fabric (cotton or poly cotton is best).
If you wear specs, buy carefully because the wrong mask can steam them up. Make sure they sit snugly over your nose, those with an adjustable bendy bit across the nose are best. Also, I find adjustable stretchy straps that hook over the ears easier. Adjustable straps are best as hot washing in between wear can shrink elastic and pull your ears forward.
Another design kink is that some cloth masks can slip down your face, if like me you talk a lot. The up and down motion of my chin (!) pulls the sculpted ‘one piece’ versions down my face, so I prefer the ‘concertina’ version, shown above.
The same advice applies to shop bought. Baukjen offers help to those who want to make their own and also sells not-for-profit face coverings at £25 for 5. Now Boden, Top Shop, M&S, John Lewis et al are selling masks. Check out ‘Muddy Stilettos’ summary here. For people who need a smarter work or ‘going out’ mask, plumo.com, florencebridge.com and edelinelee.com are among fashion retailers making masks for all. Etsy.com has many too.
In an emergency or for house visitors that might have forgotten theirs, disposable three layer masks are now on shelves in boxes of 50 in Boots and Superdrug for around £30. They’re not recyclable though, so try to minimise use and dispose of them responsibly.
Important tips, whatever your face covering
- Before first use, wash your face covering (home made mask) in hot water and soap for at least 10 minutes and dry thoroughly. I machine wash mine in a little laundry bag I found at the back of the cupboard, to protect them a bit from jeans etc.
- 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 filter (if you use one) and always hand / machine 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 (the side 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 or adjust it from the back of the mask only.
- Critically, all other measures eg 2m distancing and hand washing etc still apply.
A breathing exercise, should you get Covid-19 symptoms
As yet officially unverified. A UK hospital doctor, Dr Sarfaraz Munshi, describes a breathing technique for those infected with Covid-19 here. It could prevent the secondary pneumonia so dangerous to health.
Came to my attention from JK Rowling’s twitter feed (her GP husband recommended it to her when she caught the virus). Please check with a doctor first whether it’s safe for you or your loved one to do this (your medical history may have a bearing on its suitability).
Carer grocery shopping hours
Special hours for carers vary. Details are up on supermarket websites (though sometimes hard to find), 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. And let’s leave supermarket home delivery slots for the extremely vulnerable. If we’re able, let’s use main shopping hours or ‘click and collect’. I’m starting to find the end of day easier for shopping with social distancing.
Explore the ‘Covid-19’ sections on supermarket websites to check their latest processes and help offered. Kudos to Asda who were the first to launch a volunteer card so that it’s easier to handle inter-neighbourly cash transactions, it can be topped up remotely too. Here are the links to volunteer cards for Aldi, Co-op, Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s and M&S.
Look out for supermarket mobile shopping apps that allow you to scan, fill your bag with groceries and pay at a self check out area. Less contact and saves you having to unload and reload your shopping.
Some pubs, farm shops, cafes, smaller food businesses and community hubs are organising grocery delivery schemes for people who shouldn’t or can’t go to the supermarket. Let’s pay them back by giving them our business whenever we can.
We can also support others by donating money (if not food) to food banks, without putting our health at risk. Check local Facebook and Nextdoor groups or ask around for details. If it’s easier, you can give money nationally to The Trussel Trust who 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. An over-the-counter vitamin D supplement outside of the summer months is wise, especially for those who rarely leave the house.
Exercise is the most important thing we should all do more of, irrespective of Covid-19. While we can leave the house, let’s walk/run/cycle (at least 30mins for full benefit) if we’re able. Otherwise squats and star jumps inside or out are great. As long as we keep well spaced 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 is good for all the family. The Green Goddess and Mr Motivator have been 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. Lots of helpful YouTube videos aim to help, just 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 are updating their home pages too. Use your postcode to find your local council (and what they’re doing to help) here.]
Bucks council has set up support hubs around the county, intended for the ‘extremely vulnerable’ (see above) who don’t have access to family, friends or local support networks. These hubs are also coordination and distribution points for Bucks Council volunteer networks.
If you can spare any time to volunteer from home, Refuge needs volunteers to staff its 24 hour helpline and support its team.
National Covid-19 community support
From making an extra meal, to buying essentials, almost half (48%) of people in the UK said that they provided help or support to someone outside of their household in the first month of lockdown in April 2020 (ONS).
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 have sprung 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 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. It’s a great way to meet neighbours. Look out for local requests for loans or donations of garden furniture, paint and craft material, fitness equipment, desks and chairs to help occupy people in multi-generational households.
If you just fancy a ‘virtual chat’ with other carers who ‘get’ it, Mobilise run informal daily Zoom ‘virtual cuppas’. You can sign up for them 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 smart phone 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). 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 hope we can 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, practical, time and budget saving tips while you’re isolating.
Look after yourself too
Last but not least, you. A luxury like a face mask (of the cosmetic variety) is great, but equally helpful:
- stay as active as possible and get outside once a day if you’re able, at least open a window if it’s mild.
- do that dull task you’ve been meaning to do (strangely calming).
- regularly connect with others over the phone or by video (see above).
- try activities like reading, jigsaws, art, listening to music, knitting (lots of YouTube tutorials nowadays).
- give and receive hand, neck and foot massages, hair brushing, smelling flowers. I painted my toe nails a mad colour recently which cheered me up no end.
- 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.
- If you haven’t found Muddy Stilettos yet, it’s a great resource for what’s on or more often ‘in’ locally (amongst other things). With lockdown easing gradually, it offers ideas for 24 counties (or nationally).
Good luck friends, take care. With love and more soon x