The spread of the coronavirus is altering the way we’re living our lives at the moment, with many people taking care of someone elderly or vulnerable. Providing essential help and support for others in this fast-moving situation can understandably be stressful, especially when it’s for people who are most at risk from the virus. As the UK’s lockdown has officially been extended for at least 3 more weeks, we’ve gathered some useful information to help existing carers and those new to looking after someone in these difficult circumstances.
Who does the NHS consider to be at higher risk?
Although there is still much that we’re learning about the coronavirus, the NHS have been able to identify groups who are at an increased risk of complications:
- People who are 70 years old and over, regardless of medical conditions
- Pregnant women
- People with certain underlying health conditions, including:
- Lung conditions (including asthma, emphysema, bronchitis and COPD)
- Chronic heart disease (such as heart failure)
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic liver disease (such as hepatitis)
- Conditions which affect the brain and nervous system (such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), motor neurone disease, cerebral palsy or a learning disability)
- Spleen problems (including sickle cell disease or if you’ve had your spleen removed)
- A weakened immune system as result of conditions such as HIV or AIDS, or from taking medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
- Those who are classed as seriously overweight (with a BMI of 40 or above)
Special considerations for carers of the extremely vulnerable
There are also groups of people who are at a very high risk of severe illness if they contract the virus. The UK Government’s website gives more details about who falls into this ‘extremely vulnerable’ group, and advice on what actions they should take to protect themselves.
Anyone who is caring for a person at risk will be preoccupied with the need to provide continuing support, without endangering lives by spreading the virus. If someone you’re looking after has an underlying medical condition, there is an increased chance of that person needing hospital treatment if they catch the virus.
What is shielding?
‘Shielding’ is the practice of protecting the extremely vulnerable, by limiting their chances of coming into contact with the coronavirus. The extremely vulnerable are strongly advised to stay at home and avoid all face-to-face contact.
They can still receive essential support from a carer or healthcare professional but it’s important that strict guidelines are followed to minimise the risk of infection.
Carer checklist, for those supporting someone who is vulnerable or shielding
- If you are displaying any of the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) you should self-isolate and find someone to replace you.
- Check if the person you are caring for has an alternative list of people who can provide care if you’re unable to do so. There are also local volunteers across the country who can be called upon for help.
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds on arrival at someone’s house. You should wash your hands frequently throughout your stay.
- If you’re buying groceries or other essential products for someone, make sure to wipe them down to ensure they’re clean before the person touches them.
- Ensure any people you live with are able to support you. They don’t have to follow the guidelines to the same level but should be practicing social distancing if they leave the house.
Managing prescriptions online
One way the extremely vulnerable can minimise face-to-face contact is by using online services. Our NHS repeat prescription service enables carers to manage repeat prescriptions for someone online or by using the Pharmacy2U app. We are then able to deliver essential medication directly to the patient’s door, or to their carer to take to them. If you know someone who could benefit from this service, let them know here.