Self-isolation won’t stop our service teams keeping people safe

How staff from our Independent living services are continuing to support the NHS with patient aftercare  - even when self-isolating themselves.

Last updated 8 June 2023

For Molly, our Independent living service coordinator in Essex, a normal working day involves organising transport to take elderly and vulnerable people home from hospital. She also makes sure fridges are fully stocked, prescriptions are picked up and that there’s a friendly face at home to put the kettle on.

Teams like Molly’s can give aftercare for up to 12 weeks, providing essential support for the NHS.

But during the Covid-19 crisis, working days are not normal. Lockdown means face-to-face visits with vulnerable or elderly people must be avoided, and some of our staff and volunteers are self-isolating because of underlying health conditions. Following social isolation guidelines while protecting services users and staff has set an unprecedented challenge. 

Thankfully, our teams have adapted quickly.

"We have had a whole change around because of the virus”, Molly says, “but everyone is pulling together. Staff members who are self-isolating are making phone calls, inputting data and arranging much-needed shopping trips for those service users who can’t go out themselves. We’ve all got the skills to make sure the service keeps going.

Self-isolating Isabelle is still there for the people who need her

Isabelle, a support at home service worker, is self-isolated at home in Chelmsford as a precaution because she has asthma. 

Ordinarily, Isabelle would do her job in person. If someone had lost a bit of confidence and didn’t feel able to go shopping, Isabelle would step in. She’d be by their side to rebuild their sense of independence and reconnect them with their community. But coronavirus has changed how we all work.

Despite her isolation, Isabelle is determined to still be there for the people who need her. Working from home, her days are spent calling recent service users who might be vulnerable or might just need to hear a friendly voice.

“The Support at home team are still making sure that they have everything they need”, she says. “We have colleagues out on the front line doing emergency shopping if it is needed, and I’m signposting people to other services they may need. And they are so grateful, so happy to hear from us.” 

Long-time volunteer Tony takes time to get to know people

Tony, 72 and his wife Margaret, 73, live in  Cheshire. Both in their seventies, they are following the government and medical guidelines and staying home. This means they can no longer take service users out to a café, the garden centre, or just somewhere to people-watch as usual. 

However, Tony has been a Red Cross volunteer for 48 years, and he is not going to let a little thing like a global pandemic stop him from finding a way to support service users!

Since mid-March, Tony’s been checking on vulnerable people by phone. He finds out if they need anything (of course), but he also calls to make a connection. With a chat, Tony says, people know they’re valued and are helped to maintain a positive frame of mind.

Tony describes how during a call, it is important not to rush people, and not to worry about silences on the line or pauses. Patience allows people to express hidden talents or stories that may not come up without time to think.

He fondly recalls a call with a man who once played the Wurlitzer organ at Blackpool. The man gave them a blast over the phone, which was “wonderful!”.

But most important, Tony says, is to give service users our number again at the end of the call, just so they always have it handy. This way, he adds, "people always know we’ll be there for them if they need us. We're the British Red Cross. We're always available."

Get help at home

If you need help getting back to normal and living independently after a stay in hospital, we can help. The British Red Cross' independent living services can offer transport home, help with accessing food and medicine, companionship, rebuilding confidence and support for other needs.

UK Coronavirus Response Appeal

The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest health emergency of our time. With your help, we’ll continue to provide vital support to those worst affected by the outbreak, wherever the need is greatest.