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Coronavirus FAQs – the practicalities of shielding elderly parents in isolation

Coronavirus FAQs – the practicalities of shielding elderly parents in isolation

We are receiving many questions about individual circumstances and how to best cope with the 12 week isolation and social distancing imposed by The Government. We have compiled some Coronavirus FAQs which we will update and add to regularly.

If you have any questions regarding isolation during coronavirus, please email us or ask a question on our website – AskIris.

Can I visit family in a care home?

You have to check with the care home before you plan a visit. 
The guidance, published on 22 July, is not a blanket rule change across England. It is ultimately up to care homes, local authorities and their public health experts, to decide whether it is safe to open to visitors. 
The government says a localised approach means they can respond quickly to any spikes in cases in an area, and assess specific risks to certain homes.

Can all the family visit a relative in a care home?

If the care home allows visits, the guidance recommends it “should be limited to a single constant visitor, per resident, wherever possible.”
So, if your mother is in a care home, just one of her children should be allowed to visit. If there is a visit a week later, it should be the same child. The guidance says this will limit the number of different people visiting the care home.

Can I hug my relative whose in a care home?

“Visitors should be encouraged to keep personal interaction with the resident to a minimum, for example avoid skin-to-skin contact (handshake, hug),” the guidance says. They should also “follow the latest social-distancing advice for as much of the visit as possible.”
Currently, people are advised to stay “one metre plus” from one another.

Can we leave the care home?

The guidance doesn’t mention leaving the care home, to go out for lunch for example. It does recommend that visits take place in care home gardens. 

Do I need to wear a face covering whilst visiting the care home?

Visitors are being asked to wear face coverings, but may have to wear more personal protective equipment – such as a visor or gloves – if the resident is particularly cautious. The guidance recognises that in very exceptional circumstances, such as for residents with dementia, some visitors might not be recognised with face coverings. It says that alternatives, such as clear visors, can be used as an exception to the rule. 

Visitors should speak loudly, not wear hats and keep eye contact to help residents recognise them. If possible, care homes should prepare residents for a visit by showing them photographs or reminding them of stories related to the visitor.

What other precautions should I take when visiting a relative in a care home?

The guidance says you should drive to the home if possible, wash your hands regularly, stay away if you have shown symptoms in the past week and think about whether to bring gifts, because they might need to be decontaminated

They also say that, even where in-person visits are permitted, alternatives should be thought of first, such as the use of telephone or video.

Can I take mum out for a drive now? And go to the garden centre? We live in the same house.

You can take your mum for a drive now. If your mum isnt in the most vulnerable group over 70 you can also take her to the garden centre. Have fun

Dad’s worried about managing his finances if the shielding goes on for months. What can I do to help?

Talk to your Dad about setting up an Ordinary Power of Attorney which would give someone like you control of his bank account – with his permission – so you can pay his bills etc? You could also talk to him about simplifying his finances so that you are all clear about what is where etc. should you need to take over.

I’m worried about going back to work whilst caring for my Mum – what are the legalities? should I work and care?

Perhaps you could work from home? If that isnt possible, talk to your employer about paid/unpaid leave; as a carer you can also talk to your employer about the furlough scheme.

My Dad has Covid symptoms with very poor breathing. My Mum doesnt want him to go to hospital and be alone. Can the paramedics/ambulance people check his oxygen and keep him at home?

So very sorry to hear this. How very worrying for the family. Paramedics can check oxygen, and will make the best decision for the patient. It may differ locally, and at this time with individual symptoms. All such hard choices and decisions: if your Dad
does have to go to hospital – please ensure he has a list of medication with him, as well as a list of people the medical team and he can contact. Perhaps he can also take a mobile phone. Thinking of you all.

I live with my elderly Dad but have to go out to work. What should I do?

You should only be leaving the home for work if it is absolutely vital and you can’t work from home.  Assuming this is the case, and your parent is not in the most vulnerable group of 1.5 million people identified by The Govt., you need to keep a 2m distance inside the house; make sure you wash your hands regularly – particularly when you re-enter the house from work; cough into your elbow.  If your parent is in the most vulnerable group, then you should be in isolation together except for any of the essential trips for food, medication and exercise…

Can I still go in to Mum’s house to wash and dress her? 

If you are your Mum’s carer, this is considered to be one of four of the essential reasons to be able to leave your own home.  You can still wash and dress her. 

But you must try to observe the self-isolation measures in place: wash your hands thoroughly when you arrive, and if you can you should wear surgical gloves, and a facemask.  Wash your hands afterwards, and cough into your elbow whilst in her home. When she is dressed and you have taken off the mask etc you should maintain 2m distance from her if you can.

Could I visit my granny and sit outside with her for a chat?

No-one should make any unnecessary trips from their home or visit anyone who lives in a different house during this period.  If you care for your gran and visit as part of the care, you must practice social isolation, keeping 2m distance between you, washing your hands thoroughly before you arrive and when you leave; also cough/sneeze into your elbow.

Is it ok to invite my healthy mum who is over 70 to our house?

No.  No-one should make any unnecessary trips from their home or visit anyone who lives in a different house during this period.  You should not invite your Mum into your home.  Instead you might set up a skype call with her, or a whatsapp group. 

What is the advice regarding someone who is aged under 70 who has poor mental health and psychiatric needs?

Vulnerable people should be under the care of a GP/Professional who will be able to advise on the best course of action for them at this time.  Everyone should be self-isolating and not leaving their home for anything other than essential trips for food, medication, daily exercise or to go to work if absolutely necessary.

Is it ok for me to deliver food to vulnerable people who go to the same church as I do?

Perhaps your church has set up a rota or system for caring for older people in your community that you can join?  If you deliver food in the neighbourhood please wash your hands before you visit them, stay 2m apart, and leave meals on the doorstep.   

There are currently no geographic restrictions on delivering care/food to anyone you care for, although the Government advice is that you should only be visiting relatives/friends if absolutely necessary to deliver food or medication. 

I live in the same village as Dad and do his shopping and cooking for him.  Is it ok to still deliver his meals and leave them outside the house?

You are following the correct advice as someone with caring responsibilities for an elderly person.  You are able to provide food for him at this time as one of the four reasons the Govt is saying people/carers can leave their homes.

Can Dad still visit his allotment?

Yes. This is considered one of the forms of daily exercises that everyone is encouraged to take.

Hi my father has a number of ailments. Can I self isolate with him and get paid from work

If you are living with your Dad and he is in the most vulnerable group who has been told to stay home for 12 weeks, you can self-isolate with him ONLY IF either of you have symptoms. Otherwise you need to practice social distancing in the home, but can still go out to work if it essential to do so.

If you need to care for your father during this time, then you should have a conversation with your employer, as a carer you can ask for unpaid time off work.
If you don’t currently live with your Dad you should not/must not self-isolate with him.  The Government instructions are clear – no-one should be moving homes during this time – however hard this might be. If your Dad has been identified as one of the most vulnerable then he will receive support from a community volunteer. You can also help set up a shield around him of local support.

My Mum is over 70, on her own and struggling with isolation. I live alone and work from home. Can she come and live with me, or me with her?

Unfortunately the Govt guidance is that we should all stay in our homes during this time. Hopefully you can set up support around your Mum locally, and keep more in touch with her than normal. There is lots of useful information on our website about this.

My elderly Mum is not considered to be in the vulnerable group by the online supermarkets – so we can’t get her a slot. What can I do?

You can register your mum through the Govt website here –

My Dad has recently been discharged from hospital. He is housebound. Is there any local support I can get him?
As part of his discharge from hospital a care plan/care package may have been put in place including NHS Intermdiate Care – 6 weeks nursing care at home. If he needs more practical support you can register him on the Govt website – – so that he becomes one of the most vulnerable people who will receive support – shopping, prescription collection, other local errands etc – from a community volunteer.
There are also lots of local groups you can find through the County council website and facebook etc who are being incredible at this current time.

You could also contact social services directly for help. Or investigate a home care provider to provide paid for support.

I live with and care for my parents. Can I get tested?

Currently there is no formal testing arrangements for unpaid/family carers. All the advice is of course to observe the social distancing and isolation measures. You may find this information useful –

My dad has received his letter to say his in the most vulnerable category. Can he come and sit in my garden?

Unfortunately your Dad has to self-isolate at home. He should not leave his home even for your garden at the moment. If you are his primary carer, you can visit him.

Can I visit my elderly Mum who lives a couple of hours away from me?

If you are her primary carer then you could visit her to drop off food or meds etc. but you should observe the social distancing rules.

I live with and care for my elderly parents. Am I entitled to be furloughed?

If you are unable to work, or work from home, while shielding and caring for your parents, you should talk to your employer about furlough. It should be possible now the guidance has been updated.

Can I go and do my elderly Mum’s garden?

The guidance is that if you are your Mum’s primary carer and provide cleaning/household support then you can do some gardening. Otherwise its all a bit unclear in England. In scotland gardeners are being encouraged to continue as long as they can observe social distancing etc.

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