Worried about the elderly?
We've chatted to experts at Age Space to get some practical advice if your parents are over 70 and facing immenent isolation.
I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling a little bit jittery as the government announces more groups will need to self isolate. The supermarkets and streets are already looking apocalyptic and an enforced four month Coronavirus lockdown is terrifying for both those affected and their families.
If, like me, you’re not in a vulnerable group but have parents who are, you might be feeling helpless – especially if they don’t live in the same county as you.
We chatted to Age Space – an online resource, sharing information and advice on caring for ageing relatives. They’ve given us some practical guidance on how you can help your parents in this difficult time.
Planning ahead with medication
Make sure you know what medication your parent(s) use and take advantage of the online prescription delivery services.
Most GP surgeries have an Electronic Prescription Service – so repeat prescriptions can be delivered to the pharmacy of your choice without needing to go to the Doctor. Your parent will need to register online for this service on their GPs website (or you can do it for them), however prescriptions will still need to be collected in person.
Online prescription and delivery services are available through providers including Boots, The Co-op, and Pharmacy Online. You can do this on behalf of your parents but will need the right information. For all NHS prescriptions this is free. At the moment, the delivery times are between 5-7 days if the prescription comes directly from the GP to one of these providers.
As direct access to the GP is going to become very limited you should look at the NHS E-Consult service which is available through some surgeries.
In addition to prescribed medication, stock up the first aid kit – paracetamol (if you can find any), plasters, antiseptic and anything else that gets regular use – eyedrops, cotton buds, incontinence pads etc.
Getting in supplies
Online delivery services are currently under enormous pressure, and may not be taking new customers at the moment. If you have an online delivery account but your parent don’t, you may be able to add their address to your account if you live in the same delivery zone. Hot of the press – Morrisons have just extended their home delivery service – be quick!
As the uncertainty of Coronavirus continues, combining a regular small shopping delivery with a doorstep chat (even from a distance) will be reassuring for everyone. Other services you might want to consider: milk delivery from a local or national provider – some of whom also deliver groceries to the door.
Perhaps another relative, neighbour, cleaner or someone else locally can drop by on your behalf if you’re not able to.
Viral Kindness is a brilliant postcard available to print off and distribute for those who want to support their local community. It’s a tickbox card for anyone needing support and is being posted/emailed by local people.
Keep calm and support each other – off and online groups are springing up to help those most at risk from the Coronavirus. Nextdoor.co.uk is a great community initiative – cooking and sharing meals with neighbours and friends. It is going to be a massive team effort.
Meal delivery services
If your parent needs meal services there may be local delivery options you can find. Visit Age Space’s local hubs, if they don’t cover your area – it will still give you some inspiration for a relevant local search.
National providers such as Wiltshire Farm Foods, Oakhouse Foods, or retailers such as Cook might also be worth investigating – they too are experiencing high demand – so booking well ahead of time would be an idea.
Keeping connected, busy, healthy and entertained
If at all possible you will need to combine the best of tech with human solutions. Daily emails or actual hand-written letters – in a world where writing a letter seems to have all but disappeared – is such an easy way to connect and provide real pleasure.
If your parents have a computer or smartphone, set up (and maybe undertake a bit of training) Skype or Whatsapp – so you can have regular face to face chats.
Have an open skype session – where it’s on in the background, whilst you cook dinner for example, so they feel a part of the day to day family life.
The Silver Line has an excellent weekly call service as does Age UK. You may also find other local befriending/buddy services that provide telephone calls. We have heard of knitting/craft circles by telephone. There is probably something for everyone somewhere and Facebook groups are a good place to start.
Befriending organisations such as Re-engage make it their business to provide friendship and support for elderly people.
Keeping healthy while self-isolating
Taking usual exercise may not be possible, but there are plenty of ways of keeping healthy; just walking around the garden every day is something. Or perhaps indoor exercises for those without outdoor space. The NHS has videos and exercise plans for a range of needs – from improving flexibility to general fitness.
Keeping elderly relatives busy at home
Self-isolation seemed a bit of a bonus opportunity a few days ago. Chance to catch up on a few boxsets and admin. Imposed Coronavirus quarantine possibly over 12 weeks has turned it into something else entirely.
However, maybe it’s time to dust down the DVD collection or invest in a Netflix subscription. There is a Netflix “hack” we gather – making subscriptions available to different households by using the same password……
Introduce parents to the world of podcasts or audio books. You could start an online bookclub – or in fact any kind of club – wine, music, food and keep talking and sharing.
The world wide web of opportunity
If they have been reluctant to engage so far, the internet and a smartphone would make a huge difference to your parents lives over the coming weeks. It’s nice to see a face as well as hear a voice, plus they’ll be able to monitor Coronavirus developments in real time.
There’s so much stuff on t’internet to keep people busy: from virtual museum tours to live streaming performances (The New York Met announced free live streaming earlier this week – more will follow obvs).
Other options might be researching the family tree or taking up a new hobby. Maybe learn a new language – 12 weeks is a long time and you/they can celebrate with a holiday when everything gets back to normal.
Enrol on an online course with the University of the Third Age (U3A) – or maybe play (learn) – Bridge or other card games online.
For the academically inclined there is access to some of the best university courses here and overseas through organisations such as Mooc.org.
Cash and paying bills
You may need to put in place solutions for access to cash for your parents and extend this to paying local bills which are usually paid in person.
Unfortunately we can expect a rise in scams – phone calls, emails and even, god forbid, doorknocking. In the current climate it is even more fine than normal for your parents to HANG UP THE PHONE; to not answer the door or to delete the email. At the very least they must NEVER give anyone (even someone who says they’re from the bank/building society) any details of bank accounts, passwords etc. NO-ONE. EVER. You can find lots of useful information about preventing scams here.