3rd November 2020
As the UK prepares for a second national lockdown from Thursday 5 November it is important to consider vulnerable family members, neighbours, and friends. With only a few days to prepare it is important to do what you can now to protect loved ones.
Whilst the first lockdown was difficult for those more isolated members of the community, at least we had the wonderful warm weather which allowed for outdoor visits, time in the garden and countryside walks.
It is worrying how some people will be able to enjoy the same quality of life should they find themselves shielding at home alone during the winter months.
We are hopefully that this lockdown will end, as stated by Government on 2 December. However, there is no guarantee that all the restrictions will be lifted after four weeks and those with vulnerable family members may wish to prepare for a longer lockdown to be on the safe side.
There are some things to consider putting into place to support elderly family members and make life easier.
Lots of older people have connections in the community which are very important for their mental and physical health. These might include organised clubs, sports, community centres and church groups. Many moved online given that most of their members were shielding and some re-started after restrictions were lifted. It might be worth making some enquiries to see what online groups are still running and ensuring that your loved ones have access to attend them. Connecting with others is such a valuable lifeline and may be relied upon more over the winter months.
Now is a good time to ensure that parents, grandparents or elderly neighbours have the IT equipment that they need – and know how to use it. Being connected online can help people keep in touch with friends and family that they are no longer able to visit, but can also help them carry out essential errands such as shopping and banking.
Many people missed their summer boiler check due to restrictions, so it is worth booking a boiler service sooner rather than later and checking that the heating throughout their home is sufficient. Perhaps in the meantime you can help by bleeding radiators and checking for any drafts coming from windows and doors.
If there are any odd jobs around the house that need attention or electricals and appliances that could do with repairing it might be a good idea to take care of these now rather than waiting as shopping, deliveries and hiring tradespeople may become challenging during lockdown.
Lots of people from an older generation still pay their bills or manage their accounts in person, using banks, the Post Office and paying via cash or cheque. Whilst this is what feels comfortable and familiar to them, it would make life easier to have them set up with direct debits for their utility bills or an online banking account to move their money around. This would avoid trips to the bank or into town for those who should be shielding or only making essential travel.
If you live far away from your elderly parents or family member it is worth checking in with their local support network. Do they have any neighbours, friends or other relatives nearby who are able to keep an eye on them or help out with shopping? It is a good idea to have their phone numbers in case of an emergency. Consider domiciliary care or someone to help out with shopping, cleaning and gardening.
Loneliness, boredom and anxiety about the uncertainty of the future can really affect people’s mental health. This can be particularly isolating for those who are living alone or who lack contact with their usual social groups, friends or family. There are various helplines and support groups available. Silverline – a charity set up by Dame Esther Rantzen have a 24 hour helpline and also a telephone friendship service in partnership with Age UK. It is free for anyone over 60 and after answering a few questions they can find a match for weekly chats over the phone. This is also a good opportunity for those who were active with voluntary work prior to lockdown to help as a volunteer on the phonelines.
If you have a loved one who is living alone and is not in supported living or a care home, then it can be worrying to think about what might happen to them in an emergency. Aside from having emergency alarms installed or appointing a regular carer to visit them each day, there are a couple of things you could do to give you peace of mind. One suggestion is to look into the free NHS ‘message in a bottle’ scheme. This is a simple idea where personal and medical details are kept on a standard form in a common location which every house has – the kitchen fridge. A sticker on the front door or in the entrance hall alerts ambulance crew called to the home in an emergency of the message in a bottle. Another suggestion is to have a ‘life book’ which can be ordered from the Age UK website. This is a free booklet to write all important information inside which would be useful for family members in an emergency or if a relative was to suddenly become ill or pass away.
If their legal affairs have not already been addressed, then it is worth having a conversation about wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney. Wills should be kept up to date to include changes in family circumstances, the value of their estate and any new legislation. Do you know where they keep their will? Or which solicitors they have used?
Prior to 2007, Enduring Power of Attorneys only dealt with property and financial affairs. Since then, it is now possible to have a Lasting Power of Attorney to address health and welfare. Lasting Powers of Attorney need to be registered and it is key to do so whilst they still have the capacity to make legal decisions.
It is always best to be prepared rather than face issues once a loved one has lost capacity or is seriously ill and time does not allow you to put their affairs in order. This can be very stressful for all the family, when what matters most is precious time together.
If you would like to discuss the legal aspects of caring for an elderly or vulnerable person then please contact Debbie Duggan on 01256 844888 who will be pleased to help. Alternatively you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or speak to our online chat assistant, who is available 24/7.
Our offices are available to hold covid-secure meetings in person by appointment, however we are also able to offer video or telephone meetings if you are distanced from your loved ones and wish to make provisions during these challenging times.
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The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.
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