Older people and COVID-19

Introduction

Following Government advice, many older people will need to minimize their risk of infection by staying at home during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. While some older people can rely on family, friends and neighbors during this difficult period, many will need additional supports.

We have listed information and resources that might help older people plan ahead and access the support services they need while restricting their movements or self-isolating.

You can read our overview document on COVID-19 (coronavirus) for general information and to find out where to get more information during the pandemic.

What is cocooning?

On Friday 27 March, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced new measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

These included the introduction of cocooning to protect people who are over 70 years of age and people who are extremely medically vulnerable to COVID-19 by minimising all interaction between them and other people. The reason for cocooning is to protect people who are at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 from coming into contact with the virus.

Cocooning essentially involves staying at home in all circumstances for 2 weeks initially (this timeframe is being kept under review). Even within your home, you need to minimise all non-essential contact with other members of your household. If you have been advised to cocoon, you should not go to the shops, leave your home or garden, or go to any gatherings, even if you feel fit and well. You should also avoid all non-essential face-to-face interaction. Instead, you should stay connected to friends and family through the phone or internet.

If you are worried about getting food and medicines while cocooning, the Government has advised older people to arrange support from family, friends and neighbours, and to use online services where possible. If these options are not available to you, the Government is arranging for help through the local authorities, working with voluntary sector services, to make sure that you have access to food, essential household supplies and medicines. You can find information on how to contact your local authority.

The Government has also advised that visits from people who provide older citizens with essential support – such as washing, dressing, and feeding – should continue while adhering to physical distancing guidelines as far as possible. However, if you have a scheduled hospital or other medical appointment during a cocooning period, talk to your GP or specialist to make sure you continue to receive the care you need and decide which of these are absolutely essential.

ALONE is providing a telephone support line, seven days a week from 8am–8pm, for all older people and their families. You can ring 0818222024 if you need advice, reassurance or additional support. This support line is also open to extremely medically vulnerable people.

You can read more in our document on Cocooning during COVID-19.

Social welfare payments

All social welfare payments currently in payment will be paid as usual but most weekly payments are now being paid every 2 weeks. You can find out if this applies to your payment and when your double payment will be paid on gov.ie.

Special arrangements have been put in place for post office customers getting pensions and payments from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP). If you can’t collect your DEASP payment personally at your post office, you can nominate a person (Temporary Agent) to collect the payment on your behalf. The person collecting the payment must bring your Public Services Card and their own valid photographic ID (such as a passport, driving licence or Public Services Card). Download the Temporary Agent form (pdf).

The new COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is for people aged between 18 and 66 who has lost employment related to coronavirus.

The enhanced Illness Benefit payment is for people aged between 18 and 66 who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who have been medically required to self-isolate. You can read general information about social welfare payments and coronavirus.

The DEASP has an income support helpline for people impacted by coronavirus. The information team can advise on the most suitable income supports for your circumstances and give information about how to apply. Call (01) 2481398 or 1890800024.

Support services for older people

ALONE, the organisation that supports older people, launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties during the coronavirus restrictions. The support line is open Monday to Sunday, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024, and hours may be extended to meet demand.

SeniorLine provides a Freefone service every day of the year 10am-10pm, including all public holidays. Callers concerned about coronavirus will get the most up-to-date guidance recommended by Government sources. You can contact Senior Line on 1800 80 45 91.

The Alzheimer Society of Ireland provides advice and support for vulnerable people living alone (pdf) during the coronavirus pandemic. While the group does not offer personalised medical advice, their service can direct you towards reliable sources of information. You can contact the Alzheimer National Helpline team on 1800 341 341, by email at helpline@alzheimer.ie or via Live Chat at alzheimer.ie.

The Age Action Information Service also provides a service for older people to ensure that they can access accurate and timely information about the virus. The service is available Monday to Friday 9.30am—5pm on 01 4756989.

Volunteer Ireland is working to recruit and register volunteers during the coronavirus pandemic.

If you are a cancer patient or a former cancer patient, you can get information and advice from the Irish Cancer Society.

The Citizens Information Phone Service (CIPS) is funded and supported by the Citizens Information Board to provide a comprehensive and confidential telephone information service. You can contact CIPS by phone from 9am to 8pm, Monday to Friday, on 0761 07 4000. You can also email covid19@citinfo.ie and request a callback from an information provider.

CIPS also operates a Live Advisor instant chat service for people with hearing and speech difficulties and others who have difficulty communicating by telephone. Live Advisor is available between 9am and 5pm (Monday to Friday).

Community support helplines

Local authorities have established community support helplines that you can call if you need assistance while you are cocooning or self-isolating. You can reach your local service at the number below:

Carlow County Council 1800 814 300 Cavan County Council 1800 300 404
Clare County Council 1890 252 943 Cork City Council 1800 222 226
Cork County Council 1800 805 819 Donegal County Council 1800 928 982
Dublin City Council 01 222 8555 Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council 01 271 3199
Fingal County Council 01 890 5000 Galway City Council 1800 400 150
Galway County Council 1800 928 894 and 091 509 390 Kerry County Council 1800 807 009
Kildare County Council 045 980 202 Kilkenny County Council 1800 500 000
Laois County Council 1800 832 010 Leitrim County Council 071 965 0473
Limerick City & County Council Limerick City & County Council Longford County Council 043 334 4255
Louth County Council 1800 805 817 Mayo County Council 094 906 4660
Meath County Council 1800 808 809 Monaghan County Council 1800 804 158
Offaly County Council 1800 818 181 Roscommon County Council 1800 200 727
Sligo County Council 1800 292 765 South Dublin County Council 01 414 9043
Tipperary County Council 076 106 5000 Waterford City and County Council 1800 250 185
Westmeath County Council 1800 805 816 Wexford County Council 053 919 6000
Wicklow County Council 1800 868 399

Pharmacies

Pharmacies across the country will remain open and medicines will continue to be available to treat patients.

Some Local Link services have offered to deliver critical medical supplies to older people, and other vulnerable groups, within rural areas during the coming weeks. To find out more contact your Local Link provider.

Changes to prescription rules

On 3 April 2020, the Minister for Health announced changes to how prescriptions are issued and renewed for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency period. The changes below are temporary and will be reviewed by the Minister at a later date.

  • GPs and specialists can now email prescriptions to pharmacists using a secure electronic system called Healthmail.
  • Prescriptions are now valid for 9 months (it was previously 6 months).
  • Pharmacists can renew a prescription where it is safe and appropriate to do so. This means that you may be able to renew your prescription without visiting your GP.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland and the Irish Medical Council will issue guidance to pharmacists and doctors on when it is appropriate to renew a prescription without visiting a GP or specialist.

Utilities

The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), along with the gas and electricity suppliers recognise that some customers may be isolated at home over the coming days and weeks.

With effect from 8am on 17 March 2020, the following measures have been put in place to help you remain connected to your electricity and gas supplies during this period:

  • Domestic disconnections are suspended until 19 April
  • Emergency credit levels for prepaid (Pay As You Go) gas meters will increase from €10 to €100
  • Suppliers will offer online and over the phone top up services if you have a prepaid (Pay As You Go) electricity meter and cannot reach a shop

You can read the full announcement on the CRU's website.

Hospital, GP care and mental health services

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 you will need to self-isolate and phone your GP. The people in your household need to self-quarantine.

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. The GP will assess you over the phone. If they think you need to be tested for coronavirus, they will arrange a test.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) provides detailed information on coronavirus including:

  • The risk of catching coronavirus
  • The symptoms
  • When to call a doctor
  • How to protect yourself from coronavirus

The HSE have given specific advice for at-risk groups. If you do not have access to the internet you can contact the HSE helpline on Callsave: 1850 24 1850 or (041) 6850300

Mental health

The HSE has issued useful and practical information and advice for people on how to maintain positive mental health during the pandemic.

Religious services

All places of worship are to restrict numbers at any one time in order to ensure adequate physical distancing. Churches are open for private prayer. However, people are asked to stay at home if at all possible.

On churchservices.tv you can watch live and recorded masses and services from christian churches in Ireland and the UK. The website has a list of all the participating churches, the schedule of upcoming services and 'what's on now.

Postal services

An Post delivery and collection services and all Post Offices are operating as normal for all customers in Ireland.

From 20 March, most Post Offices will open at 8:00 am for older customers to use the Post Office before other people if they wish.

From 25 March 2020, An Post delivery staff will check in on and collect letters and parcels from older and vulnerable people along their delivery route at least once a week. There will be no charge for this service.

From 30 March 2020, An Post are also going to start a newspaper ordering and delivery service, focusing first on older and vulnerable people in the community. You will need to register for this service.

Page edited: 2 April 2020