Are you really prepared?
I realised over Christmas that I wasn’t prepared for a COVID19 crisis and it shocked me. Before I get into my story, have a think – do you actually have an emergency plan if you should get COVID19 especially if you’re a new caregiver? I’m not talking about a general idea, I mean what would you do?
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We have been shielding since March last year. I care for my mum with Alzheimer’s and we’ve only left the house two times and only for hospital visits. So the idea of getting COVID whilst in mind wasn’t up there for me as for others who interact outside.
I disinfect all food & parcel deliveries, wipe everywhere our nurses or doctors touch after visits. We don’t have personal carers to help with mum so the risk is low. But because the risk is so low, I tend to forget to socially distance.
One fine example which stuck in my head was our shopping delivery the week before Christmas when the guy didn’t leave the groceries outside but entered the opened doorway I’d left (duh!). He had no mask on and to be helpful he put the groceries in the hallway. I just collected without thinking whilst he was putting them down.
We were in close proximity for a couple of minutes, long enough? Who knows – all I knew when reflecting on it later was we were within the two meter social distancing rules. That’s all I needed to convince myself that a possibility existed for me to have caught it.
Because, less than a week later, I woke up with chills, a runny nose and a slight cough. I didn’t have a temperature, but I felt like I had the flu. So of course, my mind went straight to the possibility of having contracted Covid.
That’s when I realised that I didn’t have a plan if I did actually fall ill. Yes, I’d thought about it before but I didn’t have a clear actionable plan on what to do. As a caregiver you actually just carry on whenever you are ill.
This time of course, it was different because of the potential of passing on a life threatening infection. How can I self isolate when I’m the sole caregiver? And here in Wales we were already in full lockdown from the 20th December, 2020.
So as a precaution I wore full PPE around mum- apron, gloves, & mask. As much as possible, I stayed out of the room that my mum was in and kept myself busy, tidying and cooking. I did my best not to sit in the room with my mum for too long, but I wore a mask if I did.
I washed my hands repeatedly, ventilated the room my mum was in (freezing!) and disinfected all surfaces I touched even when wearing gloves!
But really, it was probably all too late by the time my symptoms had started showing. I’d already been in mum’s face maskless whilst doing personal care, washing and helping change her. I’d dipped and tasted whilst cooking all our meals (need to stop doing that!) The likelihood was that if I had caught it then mum also had it. So it wasn’t a surprise when mum also started sneezing and coughing despite my best efforts.
So I did what I could – ordered a home testing kit and did my research on government advice on what to do if a carer falls ill with COVID and unable to care for a relative.
Surprise, surprise, the reality is that there is no special plan for alternative care needs for caregivers due to COVID. All the advice from the government points you to the same plan you would have in any normal emergency.
Emergency Care Plan
Basically, you’re on your own to sort out care from family or friends or contact social services for help. Our government website point to Carers UK emergency plan information for caregivers.
I decided to keep mum with me until either I could not care or until we had our test results back rather than expose anyone else. It was important to set up regular check-in times with my family to see how we’re doing and update my general emergency contacts for mum.
Of course, I was scared the whole time over Christmas and New year that I’d passed it on. It took a while for us to get our COVID tests back which we did yesterday and they did turn out thankfully to be negative.
Being prepared was something I thought I was, but the reality was when it came down to it, I wasn’t. Yes I had a basic emergency plan in place before COVID, but I hadn’t updated it for COVID. I hadn’t put in place who would be able to take care of mum without personal carers involved. Would they know how to do the basics, how to use a hoist safely, how to entertain and keep mum happy in her regular routine and who to contact about mum’s health issues. It was a lot more than just saying you take care of mum because I’m ill.
It made me think of the estimated 4.5 million new caregivers since the pandemic started and how they would cope not only with managing to be a caregiver to begin with but making sure they also had an emergency plan in place. So that’s why I’m sharing my story with you today.
It’s not about a general thought of yes I know what to do, it’s about sitting down and writing a plan for the worst-case scenario. There isn’t a government support plan, it really is up to us to sort it ourselves. So if you haven’t done it yet, take the time, sit down and write a plan, discuss it with family, have an emergency contact list set up, find out what options are available with social services now before you need them. You have to ask yourself can someone else take of my loved one, knowing all the things that they specifically need include medication, emergency procedures like dealing with blocked tubes, catheters, hoisting.
Good luck and don’t be me, sort out your plan now.