As summer packs up its bags and we start to face the uncertain new season, many of us will be wondering what we can do to help our loved ones prepare for a possible resurgence of the pandemic. Hopefully over the summer months and the easing of lockdown you will have been spending time outdoors, perhaps visiting parks and gardens, perhaps seeing more family members, to allow a little respite after the very tricky months of shielding.
Autumn and winter are great unknowns, however. If we follow the trajectory of France and Spain, the UK needs to be ready for a huge spike in cases in the coming weeks and months. There are some easy wins here, though, to get relatives ready whether they live alone or with you. Plus, now that we have been through one lockdown we have a better idea of what we need to make it easier on everyone.
First on the list should be to ensure that they have a good stock cupboard full of their favourite foods, particularly tinned foods (indeed, many of us even without relatives living with dementia are stocking up in anticipation of Brexit disruptions). Pasta, tinned soups, beans, sauces, tinned fruit, loo roll (remember that crisis!?), treats like sweets or toffees, and a couple of loaves in the freezer are all good ideas, as is some dried milk powder in case they run out of milk for their tea and are tempted to leave the house. Just adding a couple of extra bits and pieces to a weekly shop can make all the difference once they have been tucked away in an emergency cupboard.
If a second wave does hit and we are ordered to shield again, it may be useful to have reminders and little notes set up around the house to jog your loved one’s memory about going out. Explain the situation clearly and in short sentences (‘we have to stay in again like we did before. The flu virus is very bad again so we have to protect ourselves by staying inside’). See if you can arrange for a regular grocery delivery slot with a supermarket and make sure they know that your loved one is on the vulnerable/shielding list. Most online supermarkets allow you to add weekly essentials in one click, so doing an online shop for someone can be pretty quick once you’ve set up the weekly list.
Make sure you have a team of willing local friends/volunteers to call on who can pick up prescriptions, drop off books/board games/shopping and generally be an extra pair of eyes and ears. You should be able to register with local volunteer groups via your council website. Keep a list of phone numbers near the phone that will be useful – pharmacy, GP, hospital, local council, any volunteer schemes that are helping out. You should also keep a list of all medications that your loved one is taking regularly as this can massively help cut down admin should anyone fall ill.
If your loved one can manage Facetime/Skype/video chat calls, make sure that the equipment they are using is set up properly and make sure everyone’s number is already plugged into their device for easy contact. It’s always helpful to have a regular time to ring and chat, as this helps with structuring people’s days.
One final idea is to make an advance care plan, in case either you or your loved one does fall ill. These are documents that express a person’s wishes and preferences for medical treatment and end of life care. You can also include elements such as DNR orders (do not resuscitate) or funeral plans. This may seem scary and worrying but it is always better to think about and plan for these things ahead of time in order to take the pressure off should the worst happen.