Last updated: Friday 3 April 2020
Plans for shielding our elderly parents and relatives from COVID-19 (coronavirus) are now a reality as the initial 12 week quarantine period announced for the most vulnerable over 70s is well under way.
This is a short guide to some practical things you can do if you are isolating in the same house with your elderly parents. We are focused on every day living for those at home.
How do I make my home safe for Mum and Dad?
The social distancing and self isolation rules are paramount but can be very hard to actually do within the home. The top tips are:
- Keep hand sanitiser by all doors leading out of the house
- Wash hands every time you come in from outdoors (particularly after shopping)
- Separate towels, napkins and other regularly used items
- Wipe down kitchen surfaces regularly
- Keep loo and bathroom surfaces clean and wipe down after use
- Try and keep 2m distance – the elbow greeting isn’t too bad:(
If you provide personal care or help with dressing etc for your parents, you should be wearing a mask and gloves, and a gown if you can get one.
(In addition to the regularly updated general advice from The Government website there is updated specialist advice regarding people living in care homes and receiving care from a care agency/provider in their own home.)
Planning ahead with medication
If you don’t already know, make a list of the regular medication your parent takes. Take advantage of the online prescription delivery services as getting to the GP in person is nigh on impossible now.
The GP surgery should/will have an Electronic Prescription Service – so repeat prescriptions can be delivered to the pharmacy of choice without needing to go to the Doctor. Your parent will need to register online for this service – from the GP website (or you can do it for them). Using this service prescriptions will need to be collected in person.
Online prescription and delivery services are available through providers including Boots, The Co-op, and Pharmacy Online. You can do this on behalf of your parents but will need the right information. For all NHS prescriptions this is free. At the moment, the delivery times are between 5-7 days if the prescription comes directly from the GP to one of these providers.
As direct access to the GP is off limits for most people you should look at the NHS E-Consult service which is available through some surgeries.
In addition to prescribed medication stock up the first aid kit – paracetamol (if you can find any), plasters, antiseptic and anything else that gets regular use – eyedrops, cotton buds, incontinence pads etc.
You may find our more general guide – Planning Ahead/Preparing to care also useful at this time.
Is it safe to go shopping for elderly parents?
As long as you do all the social distancing when you go shopping – 2m distance, stand behind the line etc – and wash your hands when you get home – you can still go shopping.
Most of the big chains of supermarkets now have Silver Hour or Carer hour at the beginning of the day. You can check online to confirm local variations. You may need to take some ID and proof that you are shopping for an elderly person: a letter from them instructing you to shop on their behalf with your ID should do it.
You may already have encountered the online virtual queues to register for a delivery. The big retailers are now trying to schedule online deliveries for the most vulnerable and elderly. They are using NHS information to collate addresses/deliveries.
If you are with your parents in their home and you’re struggling to get an online slot because they are not registered under the most vulnerable scheme, you can register them on their behalf.
Hopefully you’ve got some supplies going forwards. In recent days/weeks the solutions that seem to be really working are local shops and delivery services.
There are options to ensure quarantine due to Coronavirus doesn’t mean spam fritters three times a day (although for some that might be reason enough to self-isolate).
We all want our high streets to survive and thrive, so shop local if you can. Many are now delivering food. Look out locally – via facebook groups, local community hubs and others.
In the weeks to come, combining a regular small shopping delivery with a doorstep chat will be reassuring for everyone.
Neighbourhood groups – whatsapp, facebook etc – are springing up, along with eg Nextdoor.co.uk – so sign up – not just for your parents, but your own community too. It is going to be a massive team effort.
Meal delivery services
Milk delivery from a local or national provider – some of whom also deliver groceries to the door. These are also experiencing high demand, with many offline to regroup. Don’t give up.
Other options include meal delivery services and there may be local delivery options you can find (look through our local hubs – which may not be in your area – but give you some inspiration for a relevant local search).
With the closure of pubs, bars and restaurants, many have been able to start offering takeaway/delivery services; these are either directly or through Uber, Deliveroo etc.
National providers such as Wiltshire Farm Foods, Oakhouse Foods, or retailers such as Cook might also be worth investigating – they too are experiencing high demand – so if you can even get on their website, booking well ahead of time would be an idea.
Neighbourhood and local groups are already starting up meals on wheels or meal delivery services, as well as just cooking and sharing meals with neighbours and friends.
Keeping connected, busy, healthy and entertained
The reality of isolation for a long period of time for all of us is really concerning. Whilst in regular times your elderly parents may not go out very often, the self-imposed exile or quarantine makes it something entirely more worrying.
Keeping connected during self-isolation
Keeping family and friends connected is so important right now. Daily emails or actual hand-written letters – in a world where writing a letter seems to have all but disappeared – is such an easy way to connect and provide real pleasure.
Hopefully your parents are already set up with a computer or smartphone – but you may need to undertake a bit of training Skype or WhatsApp – so they can have regular face to face chats with family and friends.
Perhaps you ‘ve got an old phone in a drawer, or a laptop that you don’t use too much anymore…….. now is the time to get them connected.
You could start to have open skype sessions – where it’s on the background – perhaps while you cook supper – try to create just general chit chat.
The Silver Line has an excellent weekly call service as does Age UK. You may also find other local befriending/buddy services that provide telephone calls. We have also heard of knitting/craft circles by telephone. There is probably something for everyone somewhere! Befriending organisations such as Re-engage make it their business to provide friendship and support for elderly people.
Keeping healthy while self-isolating
Taking usual exercise may not be possible, but there are plenty of ways of keeping healthy; just walking round the garden every day is something. Or perhaps indoor exercises for those without outdoor space. The NHS for example has videos and exercise plans for a range of needs – from improving flexibility to general fitness.
The BBC have also announced regular older age fitness programmes. Worth the licence fee on its own.
Keeping elderly relatives busy at home
Self-isolation is no longer a potential luxury to catch up on boxsets and admin. Imposed quarantine possibly over weeks has turned it into something else entirely.
It’s time to dust down the DVD collection, or perhaps a Netflix (other providers are available) subscription would be a welcome addition to the entertainment selection.
There is a Netflix “hack” – making subscriptions available to different households by using the same password……Perhaps now is the time to get familiar with podcasts, or audio books to open up some new options.
We are creating a whole suite of “Top Tens” on our website to help you and them to access a range of entertainment – from virtual museum tours, live cinema streaming, the best box sets etc. These will be updated regularly.
The world wide web of opportunity
The internet and smartphone would make a huge difference to your parents lives now if they have been reluctant to engage so far. Not just for staying in touch or upto speed on what’s happening.
As we all know, there is so much stuff on t’internet to keep people busy: from virtual museum tours to live streaming performances. From virtual choirs to health and fitness sessions – if it isn’t there yet, it will be in the coming weeks.
Other options might be researching the family tree, taking up a new hobby or learning a new skill – maybe a new language.
Perhaps enrol on an online course with the University of the Third Age (U3A) – or maybe play – or even learn – Bridge or other card games online.
For the academically inclined there is access to some of the best university courses here and overseas through organisations such as Mooc.org.
If it’s not possible to go online, create a reading list and share books (either physical books or audio books) would help wile away the days. How about starting a bookclub – or infact any kind of club – wine, music, food.
A therapeutic and useful project would be a veg patch either in the garden, or if mobility is limited – raised beds, containers/garden pots.
Cash and paying bills
You may need to put in place solutions for access to cash for your parents, or as cards are increasingly the only currency in shops, you might need to ensure that they have the right card.
Unfortunately we can expect a rise in scams – phone calls, emails and even, god forbid, doorknocking. In the current climate it is even more fine than normal for your parents to HANG UP THE PHONE; to not answer the door or to delete the email. At the very least they must NEVER give anyone (even someone who says they’re from the bank/building society) any details of bank accounts, passwords etc. NO-ONE. EVER. You can find lots of useful information about preventing scams here.
These are just our initial thoughts to get a little bit ahead now. Please share how you’re planning on supporting family members. Join our forum, or email us at email@example.com. Or join our facebook group AgeSpace.org
We will be updating this article regularly so keep checking back for the latest tips and advice.