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 initially involved staying at home in all circumstances. From 5 May 2020, if you are cocooning you can leave your home for exercise or for a drive. You should continue to avoid contact with other people.

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

You can read about Community support 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.

You can read about Community support during COVID-19.

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.

Citizens Information Services

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 request a call back by filling in an online form. An experienced adviser will call you back.

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).

All Citizens Information Services are free of charge.

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

Energy and gas suppliers

With effect from 8am on 17 March, 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 at least 16 June
  • 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 website of the Commission for Regulation of Utilities.

Telecoms providers

The following measures were announced on 15 April 2020, to help you remain connected for calls and data during the COVID-19 emergency:

  • If you are a fixed broadband customers and do not have unlimited usage already as standard, you can upgrade your package (which may be on a temporary basis), with your current service provider
  • If you do not have fixed broadband and you rely solely on mobile access to the internet, you can avail of affordable unlimited mobile data access/package from your service provider
  • Service provides will not automatically apply fair usage policies to unlimited fixed and mobile data packages. However, they can implement appropriate permitted traffic management measures to avoid network congestion.
  • Where technically feasible, access to healthcare and educational resource websites identified by the Government will be free for all customers
  • Service providers will help if you are in financial difficulty as a result of the COVID-19 emergency and have difficulty paying your bills. Your provider will help to agree an affordable solution to keep you connected for calls and data.
  • Service providers will work with ComReg on complaints from consumers who feel they are not being treated fairly in relation to these commitments

All major providers have signed up to the Covid-19 Consumer Commitments, including BT Ireland, eir, Pure Telecom, Sky Ireland, Tesco Mobile Ireland, Three Ireland, Virgin Media Ireland and Vodafone. Check the website of your provider for more details.

The commitments will remain in place until at least 30 June 2020.

You can read more in the full Government announcement.

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.

You can read about extra An Post services in Community support during COVID-19.

Page edited: 1 May 2020