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Staying safe – tips to help protect someone who is vulnerable

We have brought together some key tips to help lessen the risk for you and loved ones posed by COVID-19.

 

Introduction

You may care for a friend or relative who is still at risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. There have been life-saving vaccines and huge progress in medical treatments and hospital care, but you may worry about those you look after, especially if they are clinically vulnerable or unable to have the vaccines.

On this page, you can find recommendations on how to stay safe and make others aware of your situation, as we take a look at some day-to-day scenarios as examples.

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1/ Tips on face coverings

Can we still wear masks? Which ones should we buy and how often should we change them? What can I do if the person I look after can’t wear a mask? 

In some health and social care settings, such as hospitals, it is still obligatory to wear a mask. Although it is no longer a legal requirement in crowded public areas, you still have the option to wear one if you feel more comfortable doing so. Masks have been used primarily to protect others, but can also be used to protect yourself.

In terms of face coverings that offer most protection, the World Health Organisation (WHO) would recommend:

  • three layers of fabric and having multiple layers made from different fabrics
  • not to use masks with valves
  • ensure it covers your nose, mouth and chin
  • washing fabric masks every day or disposing medical ones.

Which? has more detailed information on their website.

Understandably, not everyone is able to wear a mask. There are still exemption cards and letters available like this example from Breakthrough. However, if you are going to a hospital for a visit or appointment, we would recommend checking with the hospital in advance to see what their policy is as there may be certain rules and precautions to follow if you’re not able to wear a mask.


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2/ Ensuring you have care cover

What will happen if I come down with COVID-19 or a similar illness and can’t continue caring for a while?

One of the best ways to prepare for difficult circumstances when you can’t provide care is to develop a contingency plan. It could give you peace of mind to know that there will be trusted people to step in and help provide cover if ever needed. You could try using our online contingency planning tool as a starting point which provides a helpful report and checklist. Also see our emergency planning page for tips. When possible, provide copies of this to close friends or relatives.

Another good idea is to register your role as a carer with your GP. You can find information and a template letter to help alert them to the essential support you provide for someone on our Talk to your GP page. Some GP practices have web forms on their websites for carers to register online more easily.


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3/ Getting around

I often need to use taxis, but the drivers don’t always wear masks – I’m now anxious about using public transport.

Using public transport can be a daunting prospect if you worry about being within close proximity to others. On buses, trains and tubes, try to avoid travelling during busy periods when you could hit rush hour. Try to get on carriages towards the end of the platform, that are likely to be less busy, and aim to be positioned near a window which could be opened for better ventilation.

If you regularly use a taxi service, perhaps suggest that you would prefer the driver to wear a mask and keep the windows down as a comment in the app you use in advance when ordering the taxi, or mention this when you call up. If asked politely to support you with these considerations, the driver is likely to be obliging.  


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4/ Socialising with others and safety indoors

I’m not sure whether to go out socially anymore as no one is taking any precautions and restaurants are so busy. 

If you feel anxious about going to crowded settings, it can be difficult socially. Try to talk to friends and be open about how you feel. You could suggest meeting up outdoors, where possible, or ensuring that indoor spaces are well-ventilated and that social distancing can be observed. If you’re planning to go to a restaurant, you could call ahead and ask if it would be possible for your waiter or waitress to wear a mask when serving you, explaining your situation.


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5/ A recommendations checklist to help protect someone who is very vulnerable

Recommendations checklist 

  • Keep informed about recent vaccination and booster updates or medication advances. We would recommend keeping up to date with NHS guidance and government guidelines so that you can make sure you're receiving all the help you're entitled to.

  • Try to keep your distance from those who have tested positive from COVID-19 or who have symptoms for 10 days.

  • Consider continuing to wear a well-designed face covering in crowded areas or whilst shopping.

  • Keep your home well ventilated.

  • In advance, you could ask visitors to wear masks, take lateral flow tests or keep at a safe distance.

  • Avoid crowded situations and busy indoor locations where possible.

  • Ask others to take a lateral flow test before meeting them.

  • Keep social distancing if you feel more comfortable doing so.

  • The NHS is offering new treatments to people with COVID-19 who are at highest risk of becoming seriously ill. You could enquire about these and ask the GP of the person you care for if they have any information about their suitability.

  • Note that people eligible for COVID-19 treatments will still be able to access lateral flow tests from the government. 

  • If you are attending an event, contact the organisers ahead if you need any special allowances made.

  • Practical aids can be printed off to alert people if you require them to be aware of your situation. Here are some examples.

  • Focus on the positive things you can do to stay happy, stress-free and healthy. See our Keeping active and well page for some ideas. Also consider joining an online community like our Carers Active Hub or joining us for an online meet up such as an online chat or Share and Learn session. 

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