Guardian Carers Feature on BBC News London

Self-isolation: What carers can do with their clients at home

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The new coronavirus pandemic has taken over the world. In order to combat the further spread of the virus, the population has been advised to remain at home and socially isolate. Key workers still are still needed at work. Carers are some of those key workers who are needed by society to look after the elderly and vulnerable.

What are self-isolation and social distancing?

Self-isolating means not leaving the home for any non-essential purposes. In the UK, the government has imposed restrictions on the movement of people in order to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Under the new restrictions, you must only leave your home:

  • To exercise once a day - this can be either running or cycling, alone or with persons living in your household
  • To shop for basic necessities - this should be done as little as possible
  • For any medical needs or to provide care for a vulnerable person
  • To travel to and from work if this is absolutely necessary

If you do need to go outside, for any of the above-mentioned reasons, you should do so in a responsible manner. When going outside you should maintain social distancing. What is social distancing? Social distancing means keeping a distance of more than 2 metres between yourself and the people around you. The aim of social distancing is to stop the further spread of the coronavirus.

If you do need to go outside to pick up necessities from the supermarket or to pick up any prescriptions, keep your distance from others and do not interact with other people. Aim to leave your house at an earlier hour and get to the shop when it’s not too busy. Most shops have already imposed restrictions on how many people should be allowed inside at a time. If you need to travel, try to avoid using public transport, especially at peak times. If using public transport is your only option, try to leave your home earlier in order to avoid rush hour or try alternative routes, if possible.

What activities can you do with your client at home?

If you are self-isolating at home with your client there are plenty of things to do together, even though you are not allowed to go outside. Self-isolation does not have to be a dreadful time - exactly the opposite. There are so many things that you and your client can do together in self-isolation.

Listening to music is a great de-stresser, especially while in self-isolation. Ask your client what their favourite music is and play their favourite songs from their glory years. What better way to start the day in self-isolation at home, than with some mood-lifting music? If your client has dementia specifically, music has been proven as a great therapy method, which can lift their mood and even bring back memories.

Another idea to do at home, which is sure to lift the spirits in self-isolation, is playing games. After lunch, why not take out the chessboard and play a game or more with your client? Ask them what they enjoy most. There are so many games you can play and such as puzzles or cards. If you’re missing something at home, you can always have it delivered. Do not forget to sanitise it after it arrives!

A fun and interactive activity which your client is sure to engage in is baking. Look up an easy recipe, such as cookies or banana bread. You and your client will have a good time and then enjoy the benefits. Why not make self-isolation sweeter?

If there is a garden available, it would be great to spend time outside in the garden. You could have breakfast or lunch outside in the sun or just have a light walk. If your client needs to do physiotherapy or has an exercise programme which they need to follow, why no move the sessions in the garden, while in self-isolation?

What safety measures you & your client should take in self-isolation?

It’s important that while you and your client are in self-isolation at home, you follow government and NHS advice and stay inside. In order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, social distancing is key.

The coronavirus travels very easily. If you are a healthy person and you’ve interacted closely with an outside person, who does have the coronavirus and is not showing symptoms, you will probably take it home with you. You will not show any symptoms. The symptoms will start to show 14 days later. By that time you will have probably infected all the people you have interacted with. This is the point of self-isolation and social distancing - to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Self-isolation is the easiest thing that anyone can do. Just by staying at home and self-isolating, you are preventing the further spread of the coronavirus, you are protecting yourself and your client. The more people that self-isolate, the better the health services will be able to help with the situation and the sooner we will be able to walk outside without restrictions.

The ideal thing to do is to live-in with your client and self-isolate together. The family of your client could also self-isolate with you if they wish to. If that is not possible, they should not come to visit. The most they can do is come to drop off care packages at the doorstep, with no interaction.

When you do receive packages or food deliveries, make sure it is a no-contact delivery. Remember to also sterilise the packages after receiving them. If home delivery is not an option, you can go to pick up necessities from the shop, but remember to sanitise them when you arrive back home.

In terms of health, make sure to monitor both your health and the health of your client, while in self-isolation. Keep an eye on your temperature daily. Maintaining a healthy and nutritious diet is also essential in keeping a healthy immune system, which will keep infections at bay.

All in all, you should aim to respect government advice to self-isolate and maintain social distancing. Self-isolation doesn’t need to be so bad. You have the power to make it better for yourself and for your client.

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