Coronavirus: Advice for carers of those with severe mental illness

18/03/2020

This information is for anyone who is a carer of someone who lives in the community with a severe mental illness. By ‘carer’ we mean an unpaid carer, such as a relative of friend.

We refer to the person you care for as ‘my relative’ or ‘your relative.’

This information doesn’t apply if your relative is in a care or nursing home or is in hospital.

Being a carer for someone living with a severe mental illness can be challenging at the best of times. But the current coronavirus pandemic could create additional problems.

Some people have been advised by the government to self-isolate or to shield themselves. Such as people over 70 years of age, those who have an underlying health condition or if you or someone you live with has coronavirus symptoms.

Everyone is now affected by government ‘lockdown’ measures.

The government and the NHS have published their latest information on coronavirus and who should self-isolate or shield themselves, and the ‘lockdown’ measures. You can look on the following websites:

www.gov.uk/coronavirus, and
www.NHS.co.uk/coronavirus

If you can’t access the internet you can call the NHS on 111.

We hope the advice and information in the frequently asked questions below will help you and the person you care for.

Frequently asked questions

With the new ‘lockdown’ rules, can I still visit the my relative?

Yes, you can still visit your relative to care for them. And you can travel to be able to do this.

Please stay at least 2 metres away from your relative as much as practically possible. And follow all other safety guidance from the government and the NHS, such as washing your hands.

With the new ‘lockdown’ rules, can I take my relative outdoors for exercise?

Yes, you can go outdoors with your relative to exercise once a day. This might be a walk, a cycle ride or a run.

But please stick to the rules on social distancing. This means stay at least 2 metres away from your relative and other people you might come across.

How can I plan in case I can't see my relative face-to-face?

You can write a contingency plan. The plan will say what happens if you can’t have face-to-face contact with your relative. It is better to plan now rather than to wait for something to happen. Having the plan in place should make you and your relative less anxious.

You can read our information on ‘Planning for the future: Your relative’s care and support’ by clicking here: www.rethink.org/advice-and-information/carers-hub/planning-for-the-future-your-relatives-care-and-support But please note some of your and your relative’s rights about social care have changed. This is because of emergency coronavirus legislation. We will publish information on this soon.

Also, you can get information on writing a contingency plan by clicking here: www.carersuk.org/help-and-advice/practical-support/planning-for-emergencies But again, please note some of your and your relative’s rights about social care have changed.

My relative is supported by an NHS mental health team. What can I do?

Your relative might be supported by an NHS mental health team. If they are, you can contact them to ask what support they will give your relative if you can’t see them face-to-face.

If your relative has a care co-ordinator, contact them. They are overall responsible for your relative’s care. If your relative has no care co-ordinator, you can contact the person they normally deal with.

But it might be difficult for your relative’s mental health team to provide your relative with their normal level of support. This is because of the effect of coronavirus and how the virus impacts on staffing levels. But the team can tell you what support they can give to your relative.

What can I do to make sure my relative’s care plan is suitable?

If your relative is supported by an NHS mental health team, they should have a written care plan in place. The plan should say what support and treatment they should be getting to meet their needs.

If they don’t have a care plan, you can ask their mental health team to contact your relative and assess their needs. They might need to do this by phone, because of coronavirus restrictions.

If your relative has a plan, but you don’t have copy, you or your relative can contact their mental health team to ask for one.

You can check to see if your relative’s care plan meets their needs. You or your relative can contact their mental health team and ask for their plan to be reassessed if:

• It doesn’t meet their current needs, or
• Their needs have changed because you can’t see your relative face-to-face.

But it might be difficult for your relative’s mental health team to provide your relative with their normal level of support. This is because of the effect of coronavirus and how the virus impacts on staffing levels. But the team can tell you what support they can give to your relative.

What can I do if I need to get information from my relative’s mental health team or social services?

If you or your relative needs to self-isolate, you might want to get information about them from professionals who support them like:

• Their mental health team, or
• Social services.

Professionals can’t usually share confidential information about your relative with you, unless your relative agrees. You can read more about this in our information on ‘Confidentiality and information sharing: For carers, friends and family’ by clicking here: www.rethink.org/advice-and-information/carers-hub/confidentiality-and-information-sharing-for-carers-friends-and-family/

You and your relative can take steps so professionals can share information with you. Please see the section called ‘What arrangements can I make for the future?’ in the above link.

You will see your relative can sign a consent form to allow you to get information from professionals. You can use our specimen consent form. Go to the top of the link and you will see that you can download a copy of our factsheet. The specimen consent form is towards the end of that factsheet.

I can't see my relative face-to-face. Who can care for my relative?

You can ask another relative, a friend or a neighbour of yours or your relative to help them.

If you are in a carers group, you can ask another member of the group to help. Maybe group members can agree to help each other until the coronavirus situation improves.

If there is no-one to support your relative, social services should help.

A lot of local support groups are being set up to help people affected by the virus. Groups can’t meet face-to-face at the moment. But groups can use things like Facebook and WhatsApp, so members can contact each other.

You can go online and search for support groups in your local area. Or contact one of your local councillors and ask if they know of any groups. You can find details of your local councillors by clicking here: www.gov.uk/find-your-local-councillors

Support groups may be able to help with things like shopping, collecting prescriptions and providing phone calls to stop you, or your relative, feeling isolated.

I live with the person I care for. What might happen if I become unwell with the coronavirus?

The government have issued advice about what you should do if the person you live with is showing symptoms of coronavirus. You can find these here.

It may help to think about an action plan now, in case you become unwell. The government suggest that, if possible, you arrange to move any vulnerable individuals out of your home if you have coronavirus symptoms. Maybe they could stay with friends or family for the duration of the home isolation period.

You can also talk to your relative’s care team to see if they can suggest anything. Or provide more support whilst you are unwell.

My relative or I currently have support from social services. What can I do?

Your relative might get social care from social services. Or they might support you as a carer. Or both of these things might apply.

Care plans should meet your relatives needs or your needs as a carer. Needs might change if you can’t see your relative face-to-face. If this happens get in touch with social services. They usually have to reassess care plans if the needs of the person change.

But please note some of your and your relative’s rights about social care have changed. This is because of emergency coronavirus legislation. We will publish information on this soon.

We currently have no support from social services. How can we get it?

Some of your and your relative’s rights about social care have changed. This is because of emergency coronavirus legislation. We will publish information on this soon.

Because of the situation with coronavirus, social services might not be able to provide the same level of care as they normally do. But they still should support people with the greatest need.

Get in touch with your local social services if:

• Your relative needs social care support, or
• You need support as a carer.

Social care support means your relative getting help with things like:

• getting out of their home to exercise,
• cleaning their home,
• preparing meals or going shopping,
• keeping safe,
• managing their money.

If your relative needs urgent social care support, tell social services this. They should be able to arrange urgent support for your relative.

Where can I get advice about local social care and other support for my relative?

Your local social services can provide you with information on local social care and other support for your relative. So, you can contact them.

You can get advice from a local carers service. You can search form them by clicking here: https://carers.org/search/network-partners. Local carers services might be able to offer support too.

My relative or I must self-isolate. How can I stay in touch with them?

As well as calling your relative you can stay in touch with them in other ways such as text message, Skype, WhatsApp or social media, for example.

You could contact them and work together on a plan for the day for them. Once you’ve done this, you can message them the plan, so they have it in writing.

You could call them or message them with reminders. So, you could remind them about things like taking their medication, going to appointments or having meals.

What if I am a working carer or claim carer’s allowance?

There have been some changes to carer’s allowance to make things easier during the coronavirus crisis. Our Mental Health and Money Advice team have produced information about the changes. They have also provided information about working carers.

You can read more about these things here. Please see the sections headed, ‘What if I’m a carer?’ and ‘What if I’m a working carer?’

This blog will be updated as more information becomes available. Last updated 03/04/20

For more information about mental illness & Covid-19, visit our dedicated hub

 

 

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