As we are all now aware, the residents of the UK have been instructed to self-isolate for at least weeks. It’s important that we consider our elderly and vulnerable family members, neighbours and friends at this time.
The main issues which will arise for these individuals are:
- Getting access to medical supplies
- Getting access to food and necessities
Research found that half a million older people already experience periods of isolation (at least five or six days without seeing anyone) and this will only escalate the issue.
Though you should not put yourself at risk, there are ways in which you can support the elderly or vulnerable:
- Making regular contact– checking in with someone who is lacking any social contact, via telephone or text message.
- Post a note through their door – posting a note showing that you are thinking of them, asking if they need anything from you or leaving your number for them to text you if they need you.
- Pick them up items or medicines from the shops or chemists – many elderly, vulnerable or disabled people may be scared to visit the shops. Asking if they would like anything picking up could make an enormous difference to them.
- Make sure they are eating properly – many people are scared and anxious right now, and the elderly and vulnerable will be especially. They may not be making sure that they are eating correctly, or worried that their supply of food may run out. This is something you can check on when you make contact.
- Encourage digital methods of communication – Although the government rules may mean less face-to-face interaction with people, it is crucial this doesn’t mean we socially disconnect. Handy and easy to use apps and software, such as Whatsapp, Skype, social media (which now come with instant messaging features), Zoom and Facetime, to name a few, are all free to use.
- Encourage activity and movement – the risk to elderly and vulnerable people of staying indoors isn’t just about their mental health, but also a reduction in movement and activity, which can be detrimental to their physical wellbeing too. The Government is allowing people to leave their home for exercise, so they are physically able to do so, should take advantage of this. They should, at all times, follow the Governments social distancing rules.
- Encourage a healthy diet – When you’re at home it can be tempting to just sit on the sofa without moving, eating unbalanced meals and snacking all day as a way to entertain yourself. Make sure you encourage elderly people to look after their physical health by eating healthily.
- Make them aware of scammers – Scared, vulnerable older people are being preyed on by criminals using a range of coronavirus scams to burgle, rob and potentially harm them, police and support groups have warned. These have included individuals pretending to be members of the NHS, Police or other public sector bodies, and have gained entry to people’s homes, then stealing from. Other issues have arisen from email and text message scams, preying on individuals who are confused and scared.
Feelings of loneliness can feel stronger when you are isolated, especially if you are experiencing bereavement, going through a break up or have recently retired.
Here are some tips which you can take to help:
Get out of the house – you are allowed to leave your house for vital exercise and shopping. Use this time wisely and allow yourself fresh air.
Go online – you can find plenty of online communities and support programmes, from chat rooms, to phone help lines or places where you can organise face to face support
Try to talk to people – you may have friends or people you know going through similar experiences and it may be useful to open up to them via a phone call or text message. If you do not have friends or family, or feel uncomfortable, there are peer support groups and therapists available.
The NHS are seeking a number of volunteers during the Coronavirus outbreak, and you find out more about this here.
You can volunteer as a ‘Neighbourly volunteer’ for the Age Uk, supporting the elderly in your community here.
There are a number of food banks operating in your local area, and information on these can be found here.
More information on support for the elderly can be found on the Age UK website here.
Lindsey Rawson is a Partner and Head of Wills, Trusts & Probate at Howells Solicitors, and is a registered ‘Dementia Friend’. She also works closely with Age UK Sheffield and speaks regularly at events across the region supporting people with their post retirement plans.
If you would like to discuss your situation with me further, you can email Howells to make an appointment at [email protected], visit our website or call us:
Sheffield: 0114 249 66 66
Barnsley: 0122 680 51 90
Rotherham: 0170 936 40 00
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