‘Carers in Leeds must ask for help’ amid coronavirus outbreak

COVID-19 is affecting everyone by one means or another – working from home, restricting social contact, endless washing of hands – and it’s frustrating that we can’t carry on life as usual, writes Val Hewison, chief executive of Carers Leeds.
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elderly care - oap - old age

But carers have many more concerns than people who do not have a caring role. And it is estimated that 10 per cent of the UK population are carers. Like everyone else, carers should follow core public health advice. Carers need to pay particular attention to hygiene – frequent and thorough washing of hands, coughing or sneezing into a tissue then binning it and washing hands. We must avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough – people with any signs of cough or high temperature are advised to self-isolate for 14 days.

And the latest guidance from the government tells people over 70 to self-isolate for 12 weeks and others to limit themselves to essential social contact.

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This is all well and good but it’s causing anxiety amongst carers who won’t be able to isolate themselves from the person they care for. The carers we are talking to are frightened they’ll get ill. None of this is easy but we as an organisation will work together with social care, health and other fantastic third sector organisations and charities to try our absolute best to support these families. But I, as a family carer myself, and Carers Leeds certainly get it.

All of this is putting many carers in a difficult position – should they continue to visit their family member in a care home, should they call round on their elderly parents who are only just managing at home, what will happen to the home care workers, who will do the shopping? There are so many questions. Each case needs to be looked at individually and the issues and problems identified. Family members will want to continue to visit the people they care for – people need to be particularly careful about hygiene and make sure they don’t visit if they are not feeling well.

Health and social care providers have all been advised on how to manage the virus – home care workers conducting essential personal care are being issued with personal protective equipment. Care homes are putting business continuity plans in place.

There are many local developments taking place whereby neighbours are identifying individuals and families at risk and offering help. Voluntary Action – Leeds is working with Leeds City Council to deliver a co-ordinated volunteer programme to match volunteers to vulnerable people. Volunteers will then be able to visit isolated people, help with shopping or cooking a meal – but will not provide personal care. More information about this will be published on their website very soon (https://Doinggoodleeds.org.uk)

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Carers Leeds is available for information, advice and support five days a week – our Advice Line runs every day from 9am until 5.30pm – the number is 0113 380 4300 or [email protected]. We can talk through options with you. Our main message to carers is – if you or the person you care for is struggling, ask for help! There is help available and Carers Leeds staff can direct you to it.