Social distancing, self-isolation and shielding
Explanations of what social distancing, self-isolation and shielding mean, and why they're vitally important.
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.
There's specific information for how to provide care and support to someone who lives in a different household.
Yes, however while you are outside of the house, it's important to stay at least 2 metres away from people. If this isn’t possible you should follow the 1-metre plus rule, which means staying at least 1 metre away, while also taking other precautions, such as wearing a face covering.
When you get home, wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. It’s also a good idea to carry hand sanitiser with you when you are out and about. You may want to cover your face when you go into enclosed spaces where it is hard to socially distance from other people, for example in shops.
It's mandatory to cover your face when you go on public transport or to hospitals, unless you have a medical reason which prevents you from doing so.
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:
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.
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.
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.
You can meet with up to 5 people from outside of your household in an outdoor space, which includes private gardens and roof terraces and you can meet with one other household in indoor spaces. If you are having people come over there are some things to think about:
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.
However, you should contact the NHS if the person you care for:
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.
If you have 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. Read below for more information on how to do this.
You should also take precautions to prevent the infection being passed on. Under new guidance people who are extremely vulnerable are encouraged to move in with friends or family temporarily if someone in their household has coronavirus. We know that this will be harder for carers and you may feel this isn’t right or possible for you
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.
The Government advises that if you develop symptoms of coronavirus, you should stop providing care.
If the person you care for is classed as clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable you should see if they are 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.
If you are unable to provide care during this time, either because you or the person you care for has developed symptoms of coronavirus, you are likely to feel stressed and anxious. 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.
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:
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.
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:
It's perfectly natural to feel like that in the face of all the news headlines. Here are some things you can doing to feel less worried during this confusing time.
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.
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.
Explanations of what social distancing, self-isolation and shielding mean, and why they're vitally important.
Advice on caring for someone who is self isolating in another household.
Answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we're asked about coronavirus.
Age UK's information about when and where you can do your shopping during the coronavirus outbreak.
Information for those with existing health conditions during the coronavirus outbreak.
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