The Coronavirus pandemic is changing things for pretty much everybody at the moment. The UK's 9 million informal carers are at the very front line. These are the people who are looking after a vulnerable member of their family, a friend or a neighbour. Many have been doing this for years, but in the last months it's got much tougher.
Mobilise has been speaking to carers since the crisis began. Here are some of the tips they've been finding helpful (in no particular order).
1. Ration how much news you're getting
At times like this, it's tempting to spend a lot of time absorbing the latest from the rolling news channels, social media and elsewhere. This can often add to the stress of the whole situation.
Quite a few carers are identifying specific times of the day when they'll access the news - maybe once in the morning, and watching the evening news. This can really help keep the stress levels in check.
2. Keep to a daily routine
Each caring situation is different. Some carers have been living with the person they look after for a long time. For others, they've moved in over the last few months to avoid paid care-workers coming in on a daily basis. However, everybody's normal routine has been changed one way or another.
Carers we're talking to are finding it helpful to set up a regular routine (e.g. Walking the dog at a certain time, or joining the Mobilise online 'Cuppa' once a week). This helps give a structure to everything, which will be important if we are in lockdown or have to isolate for a while.
3. Revisit the Emergency Plan
*The* big question carers are asking at the moment is 'What happens if I go down with the virus?' Understandably, this causes a lot of worry and it's likely that there's no simple answer.
That's why a lot of carers are looking again at their emergency plan, and thinking through back up plans. Do stay in touch with your local council to know what help is available. You might also get some peace of mind by talking about 'What Ifs' with your family and neighbours.
4. Write a list of things that could help
It's great to see that so many people across the country are keen to help wherever they can. However, some carers tell us that when somebody asks how they can help, it's hard to think of anything on the spur of the moment.
So, we're hearing that carers are writing down in advance a little list of things which would be really handy - e.g. Popping to the pharmacy to pick up medication, or doing the grocery run.
There's a lot of research that says having a community around us can make a big difference. Carers we're talking to are thinking really carefully about who it's important that they are talking to at the moment. That could include groups like:
close family and friends
neighbours and people physically close at hand
other carers, who are in a similar situation
Sometimes a quick group message to family, checking in with each other every day can flag up anything important nice and quickly.