Do you think the situation facing those receiving domiciliary care is getting the same attention as those in care homes?

Occasionally when people talk about social care there is an acknowledgement that there is care in people’s homes – often the focus starts on people in residential care homes, and then it moves on to domiciliary care. I don’t think even this has happened so far with discussions about coronavirus.

Where I live was built as a seaside town, which means we have lots of decent-sized buildings which are now care homes. If staff in care homes work with twenty-five clients, that is their risk pool. However, if carers’ rotas take them to different clients, you end up with a much bigger risk pool. I don’t feel there has been enough focus given to risks in this area.

We have only recently seen a rise in the attention paid to deaths in care homes through the Office of National Statistics reports on these deaths, but we haven’t seen the same call for information about the deaths of those receiving domiciliary care. Why not?

What are the particular challenges facing people receiving care at home during the coronavirus outbreak?

For the care sector as a whole, it is a quickly changing time. In hospitals, staff are possibly more used to dealing with the kind of infections we use antibiotics for and infection control, but carers have not necessarily had experience of treating infectious disease.

My carers are lovely and I have a huge amount of respect for them continuing to want to work in this area, given the risks they take. We have lots of people who had nothing to do with care before, who carry out a week of training, a couple of days of shadowing, and then they are largely on their own. We are expecting them to do what traditionally nurses have done with three years of training.

Getting information about staff sickness has been very challenging in my experience. I haven’t been out for a couple of weeks because I recently learned that one of the carers who had been in my home is now self-isolating. Getting that information from my care company was like drawing teeth.

'We have lots of people who had nothing to do with care before, who carry out a week of training, a couple of days of shadowing, and then they are largely on their own. We are expecting them to do what traditionally nurses have done with three years of training.'

I personally found the process of being informed about out about whether carers who have been into my home are now off sick very stressful. It was really difficult to find out how many people in my care companies were sick or self-isolating, and different people gave me different information on the number of carers off work. Some said that there were only a couple of carers isolating, while others thought the number was more than ten. It was also difficult to find out that one of these self-isolating carers had been in my home recently.

How would you summarise the most urgent issues experienced by those receiving domiciliary care?

There is an ongoing problem of personal protective equipment (PPE). I know of carers who have PPE but they don’t feel they have enough to use it in all cases, and carers are struggling to use it to best effect.

I have heard about care homes using PPE for each interaction with those receiving care if they have even one coronavirus-positive patient. On the other hand, by encouraging carers who move between people’s homes to use PPE only when treating someone with symptoms, you introduce risk.

Some of my carers who help me with things like cooking are less than two meters away from me, so there is a considerable risk of transmission while they are working. Any yet, the PPE guidance relies on people with all sort of conditions within social care to be able to recognise their symptoms and communicate how they feel to a carer before the carer is expected to wear PPE.

It is worth recognising the amount of changes that have been made very quickly to react to coronavirus. Given the amount that has happened it has been very difficult to make the changes needed to ensure that some people are not falling through the cracks. However, if you feel you are a category which is falling through the cracks, this situation is more difficult to handle than it is for other people.

You can read Anne’s first blog here.

'Anne' wanted to remain anonymous.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Independent Age is calling on the Government to ensure all older people are able to access the high-quality care they need. This includes vital care delivered within individual’s own homes as well as residential care. Maintaining a high level of care in these environments is imperative to ensuring the safety of people as they get older.  

You can help us improve the care system by joining Independent Age’s online campaign network. We’ll keep you updated on our activities and how you can get involved.