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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 protecting elderly parents during the Coronavirus pandemic. We have compiled some Coronavirus FAQs which we will update and add to regularly.

If you have any questions regarding care for elderly people 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, last updated on November 5th, 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 who is 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 doing something absolutely necessary such as travelling for essential shopping. However, as we are in lockdown, you should not make unnecessary journeys, such as to the garden centre.

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 is not possible, talk to your employer about paid/unpaid leave; as a carer you can also talk to your employer about the furlough scheme, or flexible working hours.

My Dad has Covid symptoms with very poor breathing. My Mum doesn’t 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. 

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 face mask. 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, this is currently not allowed unless your granny is in a support bubble with you.

If you care for your gran and visit as part of the care, you must practice social distance, 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, this is not allowed according to the latest national restrictions from November 5th.

If your mum lives alone, then you may be eligible to form a ‘support bubble’ with her. Here are the Government guidelines on support bubbles.

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. 

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.   

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. 

Can Dad still visit his allotment?

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

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

This will have to be a conversation you have directly with your employer. The furlough rules have been changing, and each situation is unique.

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?

Yes – currently the government allows for this but you should bear in mind that the new member of your household is more at risk from serious consequences if they get Covid, and should adjust your social life accordingly.

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?

Some supermarkets are still allocating time to the elderly and more vulnerable. Otherwise, supermarkets have put into place precautions so that the risk of infection is minimal. If she is unable to go still consider booking home deliveries or asking a neighbour/friend to shop for her.

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 Intermediate 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.

You are also able to help, given you are not suffering from Covid or currently self-isolating.

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

Yes – you can either book a test at a testing centre or get one delivered to your home. Follow the link to find out more

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

Currently, this is not advised. Read here the latest 5th November guidance on what the most vulnerable people should do.

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

No, the current advice is that you should not be travelling unless absolutely necessary. If your mum is in your support bubble then this is acceptable.

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

You should speak to your employer about this, as the furlough scheme is continuing in line with the latest national restrictions.

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

Yes, but you should not spend any time inside your elderly Mum’s house, as this is not permitted in the latest restrictions. You are also not permitted to socialise with your mum in her garden, unless she is within your support bubble.

Can I visit my parent(s) who are over 70?

Yes – anyone over 70 is considered vulnerable and therefore you are still able to visit your parents if you need to care for them.

Anyone under 70 with an underlying health condition is also considered vulnerable. Click here for further guidance on medical conditions.

However, you should be especially careful to follow the rules and minimise your contacts as they will be more at risk of severe illness from Coronavirus.

Can I put my mum into respite care?

Yes, you can put your parent into respite care.

Can I accompany my dad to a medical appointment?

Yes, you can accompany an elderly parent to a medical appointment.

Can my mum join our support bubble?

Anyone who lives alone has the option to join a support bubble. Households in that support bubble can still visit each other, stay overnight in each other’s households, and visit outdoor public places together.

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