CONCERNS have been raised for elderly relatives during the coronavirus outbreak.

But help is at hand, there are a number of steps you can take to support and protect them.

What is the current advice for elderly people in the UK?

Currently, the UK government has not imposed any formal restrictions on the movement of any people - including the elderly.

However, this may change as the virus develops. Some reports suggest that elderly people may soon be encouraged by the government to practice "social distancing", avoiding travel and confining themselves to their homes where possible.

On an individual level, some elderly people are already beginning to practice social distancing as a precautionary measure.

What can I do to support the elderly during the outbreak?

  • General support 

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, told the BBC that it's important to check on elderly relatives and friends regularly during the outbreak. If you are not able to do this in person, you should make regular phone or Skype calls to check in.

"If you have any concerns about their health or need more information about coronavirus call NHS 111 or visit the NHS website," Abrahams added.

Older people and their families can also call Age UK Advice for free on 0800 169 65 65.

  • Medication

Another way you can help the elderly is to make sure that they have all the essential medications they need, in case they're not able to leave the house.

Where possible, you could help them to access extras so they don't run out. You can also check whether the local pharmacy is able to deliver medication, as some are planning to do this in the case of a large-scale coronavirus outbreak.

  • Shopping and food delivery

Though the government maintains that stockpiling food is not a necessity at this stage, you can help less-mobile elderly people by helping them stock up on enough non-perishable food items to keep them going should they - or you - be unable to visit for a little while.

You could also schedule food deliveries to their home.

  • Keep them moving

You should also encourage your elderly friend or relative to keep moving as much as possible, even if confined to their home. This is important for boosting physical and mental health.

It can be something as simple as walking around the house, garden, or even standing up a few times every hour.

  • Carers

If you are not the primary carer for your elderly friend or relative, make sure the primary carer is washing their hands thoroughly and not working if they become unwell.

If the elderly person is in a care home, you should check what the home's policy is in the event of an outbreak to make sure you are aware of what you may have to do should such a situation arise.

What if my elderly friend or relative becomes unwell? 

If your elderly relative is showing the symptoms of coronavirus, do not take them to a GP. Instead, keep them inside and call NHS 111. You'll then need to follow the advice given over the phone.

If you believe their life is in imminent danger, call 999 for an ambulance.

What if I become unwell? 

If you are experiencing coronavirus symptoms, it is important that you do not continue visiting your elderly relatives or friends, as you may be putting them at risk of also contracting it.

You should instead stay inside and call NHS 111 to get further advice from the health service.

What do I do if I am unable to visit? 

If you are a regular visitor or caregiver for an elderly person, you should have an emergency plan in place in case you are not able to visit. This plan should detail the medication the person is on, important contact numbers, and the names of people who might be able to step in if you are unwell or unable to visit.

That way, if the worst comes to the worst, you'll know that your elderly friend or relative is still accessing the medication and help they need.

Coronavirus: the facts

  • What is coronavirus?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.

  • What caused coronavirus?

The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.

  • How is it spread?

As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But.similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.

  • What are the symptoms? 

The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell. 

  • What precautions can be taken?

Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.

  • Should I avoid public places?

Most people who feel well can continue to go to work, school and public places and should only stay at home and self isolate if advised by a medical professional or the coronavirus service.

  • What should I do if I feel unwell?

Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next. 

  • When to call NHS 111

NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.