Coronavirus and the elderly

Parental Choice has asked Sharon Betts, its Head of Family Care for advice on helping our elderly relatives, who are most vulnerable to the covid-19 coronavirus.

On Wednesday 1tth March 2020 the World Health Organisation officially declared the coronavirus a global pandemic.  Various governments have moved swiftly to put into place action plans to help delay or contain the virus and with it have come school closures, work from home policies and self-isolation policies.  Whilst the UK has entered the early stage of delaying the spread of the disease, there are serious questions about how to protect those most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, specifically the elderly and those in care.

The death rate amongst elderly and vulnerable individuals has been much higher than any other group with the coronavirus and as such, it is important to know how best to support those who will be most affected should the virus spread further within the UK.

Individual care homes are working closely alongside their local authorities and listening to government advice and taking action accordingly.  Some care homes are being stringent with visitor hygiene and provide hand washing monitors who watch over any visitors to ensure proper hygiene rules are followed prior to any visit, other care homes have stopped all visitations for the time being in order to keep their residents safe from any external disease.

But what does that mean for you if you have an elderly relative that you care for or visit? How can you best support those who can’t help themselves?

Firstly, it is important to follow the government advice on personal hygiene by ensuring that you wash your hand thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, and if possible, to also use hand sanitiser on top of this.  If you have a cough or a cold then use tissues, which should be immediately discarded and cough into your elbow instead of your hand to help stop spread of germs.

Secondly, speak with your loved one about visiting them and whether any visiting schedule would need to be adjusted.  Older people often rely on visits from loved one to keep them from being lonely and the loss of social contact could have an effect on their wellbeing.  As such it is important to communicate with them any concerns you may have and how you can mitigate any loneliness by scheduled telephone calls or face time (if they have access to online services)

Additionally, create a support plan with friends and family to cover any visits and social contact for your loved one.  Speak with their friends and neighbours about visiting them and check with any current carers or care home workers about what visiting policies they will be putting in place.

It is important to also ensure that any medical subscriptions are filled and up to date and that they have enough food supplies to last for at least two weeks should you not be able to visit for any period due to your own self-isolation or illness.

Care homes

Care home managers are in close contact with the government about what to do with any staff shortages during this time and there is likely to be a reliance on volunteers to cover any shortages in staff during the next few weeks.  One idea suggested by the government is to cocoon older people for a set number of weeks within their care homes to protect them from external infection.  Should this be put in place, you may not be able to visit your loved one for a few weeks.  Again, keep in regular contact with your care home provider for your loved one and ensure that they are able to communicate to both you and your loved one about any changes to visits and how you will be able to stay in touch.

At the end of the day, keeping our loved ones safe and healthy during this time is the main priority of all involved and whilst this may mean a change in normal routine, the long-term goal of protecting them from the COVID-19 virus is of paramount importance.

Top tips

  • Follow strict personal hygiene protocols
  • Create an emergency care plan with friends and family to cover visits and contact with loved one
  • Speak with carers and care home providers about their emergency plans
  • Speak with your loved one about how you can keep in touch if you can’t visit them to keep their spirits up
  • Avoid visiting places with large crowds and public gatherings

Parental Choice helps working families with advice on childcare and eldercare, alongside their childcare search services and sourcing residential care homes for the elderly. 

For advice on care for the elderly get in touch or see our useful resources.  |  020 8979 6453

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