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Coronavirus: what you need to know if a relative is in a care home

If you have a loved one who is being looked after in a care home, or uses care services in their own home, find out what is being planned to ensure their safety

Coronavirus: what you need to know if a relative is in a care home

Care providers across the UK are introducing measures to protect the safety of their clients and staff during the current outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Coronavirus represents a significant risk to public health across the UK. Older people and those with underlying health conditions are at greater risk of developing a serious illness as a result of infection.

If you have a loved one who is being looked after in a care home, or uses care services in their own home, find out what is being planned to ensure their safety.

What is happening in care homes?

So far, the government has not instructed care homes to restrict visitors. The official guidance asks that care home providers ensure no one with COVID-19 symptoms or who is generally unwell should visit, as well as emphasising good hand hygiene for visitors.  

However, many care home operators across the UK have already introduced some visiting restrictions. For some, this will mean visiting is limited to immediate family members only, but others have already introduced a complete ban on non-essential visits. Some homes are also cancelling activities and keeping residents indoors in an effort to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Contact your loved one’s care home in advance before attempting to visit and don’t visit if you feel unwell, however mild. If you need help contacting a care provider, you can search for details on our care services directory. Or look for information on the relevant care regulator’s website.

If visiting your loved one is not recommended, talk to the care home about other ways you can keep in touch with your loved one, such as phone calls and video chats.

What to expect if you visit a care home

If you are going to a care home that allows visitors, there are a few measures you can expect to come across.

  • Contact the home in advance – there may be restricted visiting times or limits on the number of people who can visit.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before going to the home and use the hand sanitiser provided on arrival.
  • Staff may ask you some questions about your own health and any potential contact you may have had with coronavirus before you can enter.
  • Some care homes may introduce temperature checks on arrival to ensure that visitors are not showing signs of a fever.
  • Cover your mouth and nose if you happen to sneeze or cough unexpectedly, and bring a supply of tissues with you to help with this.

Will my loved one be safe in a care home?

There have been a small number of reported cases of coronavirus in care homes – these have involved both staff members and residents. 

The official guidance states that people receiving care should be isolated in their rooms if they display coronavirus symptoms. 

Most care homes have single rooms and separate bathrooms, which will help them to manage the situation should any residents require a period of isolation. Care homes should also have well-established hygiene routines and will be well placed to carry out any necessary infection-control measures.

Care homes will also be in close communication with local NHS services to ensure that vital medical support will be available when needed.

Home care guidance

Many older people, especially those living alone, rely on support provided in their own home by home care agencies. The government has issued guidance to home care providers to help them maintain delivery of vital care services.

Home care agencies have been asked to ensure they keep all information about their clients up to date, including details of any additional informal support that is available to individuals. They have been asked to share this information with local health partners, if required. Care agencies should also cooperate closely with local authorities and health services so that resources can be shared locally, if necessary, and to ensure that care needs for the most vulnerable can continue to be met.

If your loved one receives support from a home care agency, contact the company to find out what safety measures and contingency plans they have in place.

If you employ private care workers to support your loved one, make sure they understand and follow strict hygiene routines, as recommended by the NHS. Also ensure that an adequate supply of soap, towels and other hygiene products are available in the home.

If you’re concerned about a loved one’s safety at home and would like to arrange extra support, read our advice on how to arrange care at home.

You can keep up to date with the latest coronavirus news and advice from Which? here.

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