Covid-19 and Family Carers
We understand that many family carers in Ireland are anxious about the current outbreak of the virus named Covid-19. This outbreak has been upgraded, worldwide, to a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Whilst it appears that at the time of this update (September 2020) Ireland has mostly been successful in avoiding the worst scenarios which had been predicted, many people have contracted the virus, and a number have tragically and sadly lost their lives. The government recently updated the advice on restrictions etc in a new document called Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19.
We in Care Alliance are not in a position to give medical advice, and would recommend that all family carers follow the recommendations of the Government and the HSE on such matters. As this is such a rapidly evolving situation, this advice is likely to change on a regular basis.
You may also wish to visit a page specifically set up by Family Carers Ireland, detailing the measures that family carers should be aware of in relation to Covid-19: https://familycarers.ie/coronavirus-covid-19-information-advice/.
For those interested in research which has been developed re: topics of interest to family carers you may find our specific section on Carers and Covid-19 on our Policy & Research Roundup useful - click here. We recently published an overview of research undertaken regarding Covid19 and family caring. You can read that here.
At the beginning of May 2020, the HSE published a set of FAQ's for family carers and people with disabilities regarding Covid-19. You can access that here.
Many of Ireland’s family carers are already providing significant medical care and supports to those who are most at risk from Covid-19. A situation may arise whereby a family carer may need to isolate themselves from the person they provide care for, or indeed may need to continue caring for that individual even if they contract the virus.
It is vital that family carers develop an emergency/backup plan which can be used if a family carer cannot provide care in the home. We have collated some information here which may be useful for family carers in planning for such an event.
Nominate a Backup Carer
Do you have another family member who is willing and able to provide care if something happens and you cannot for a period of time? Make sure that everyone comfortable with this scenario – you as the carer, the person receiving care, and the backup carer – or at least accepting of it. You should make sure that the backup carer has access to important details about the medical and social care needs of the caree. Check to see if there are any tasks that they need to be shown how to do correctly (for example, peg feeding or using particular equipment like hoists or mobility aids). It might be a good idea to pass on this knowledge now rather than having to do it when an emergency occurs.
You should make sure that any health and social care professionals involved in the care of your loved one are aware of this person and know that this person is your backup carer.
Make an Emergency Plan
If you are suddenly unable to provide care, it is important that whoever will take over the provision of care knows all the important information about the particular care situation. We recommend that family carers create a document or folder containing the following information:
Name and contact details for you and the person you care for.
Name and contact details for your and their next of kin (closest living relative).
Name and contact details for your backup carer.
Name and contact details for the healthcare professionals involved with the person you care for: GP, local public health nurse, home care provider or agency, pharmacist, etc.
It should also include the following details on the person you care for:
the medical condition(s), including allergies and dietary requirements
any communication and mobility issues they have
a list of medication they’re taking and details of their ongoing needs
information about who has keys and how to access the property, including alarm codes
any important information about the person’s home, for example, how to turn the central heating on, the location of the fusebox, etc.
any Power of Attorney that’s in place
any advance care plan that has been made.
Enable UK, an organisation based in the UK, has developed a workbook to help guide you through creating an emergency plan. You can download a copy of it here. If you want to print this plan out and don’t have a printer at home, ask a neighbour. Failing that, email us email@example.com and we will send you a hard copy in the post. Please be aware, however, that not all aspects of services discussed in the workbook will be relevant or available to family carers here in Ireland. Family Carers Ireland have also created a Backup Plan template which you can access here.
In Case of Emergency (ICE)
ICE (In Case of Emergency) is a campaign started by a paramedic to help emergency staff quickly find out who to contact. You can store the word ‘ICE’ in your mobile phone address book with the number of the person you’d like contacted, for example, your backup carer. If something happens to you, ambulance, police or hospital staff will look for the word ICE in your phone’s address book and call that person. If you have more than one person to contact in an emergency, you can list them as ICE1, ICE2, ICE3.
Your phone may have a lock with a password, in which case other people won’t be able to access your address book. But you can put ICE information on your phone’s lock screen. Your phone instruction manual will have information about how to do this.
It may also be useful to create a card with these contact details to keep in your wallet or purse, including the information that you provide care for someone.
If someone you're caring for lives at a distance, it's important to consider how technology can help alert you to any problems and give you both peace of mind.
You may find it valuable to explore some apps and devices specifically designed with carers' needs in mind, such as CareFolk, which has been designed by an Irish developer and former carer, that enables easier communication and coordination of care among friends and family. More information is available at https://www.carefolk.com/carefolkfamily-help.
Another option is the app Jointly (https://jointlyapp.com/). Jointly is a mobile and online app developed by CarersUK, and functions similarly to CareFolk.
Care Alliance Ireland have set up an online social group to support family carers at this time. You can find the group by clicking https://www.facebook.com/groups/FamilyCarerOnlineSupportGroupIreland/.
Our twitter handle is also being used to share information @CareAllianceIrl
If you are not a member of Facebook, you do need to join to join the group. We have created a video showing you how to join and how to find the group - you can watch it below.