Rosie, 64, is currently shielding at her home in Bolton. With severe heart failure, lung fibrosis, Adrenal failure, and chronic asthma amongst other life challenging conditions it’s vital that she stays at home to protect herself from catching the coronavirus.
As former Chair of Equalities at Healthwatch Bolton, Rosie is all too familiar with people or vulnerable groups not knowing where they can go for help, or how to overcome any issues they are experiencing.
After 35 days in isolation, Rosie talked to us to share her experience, and to make sure that people know that they are not alone during these unprecedented and worrying times.
A new reality
As a patient at her local hospice, Rosie was told on Wednesday 11 March that all day patients and day therapies would no longer be permitted. Instead, people were to isolate and seek help from their GP; the Hospice would ring patients every week and be there to answer any concerns or question.
This seemed ok with Rosie at first with, the reality of what this meant didn't sink in until a couple of weeks later.
A large part of her support network was no longer there, her friends were also shielding, and her family lived hundreds of miles away so were unable to help. Rosie turned to humour, sending videos to her friends and family to keep both herself and them upbeat.
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Feeling down and trapped
Despite being able to find humour in situations Rosie found herself struggling five weeks into shielding. She couldn’t get the medication she needed, and there were problems with her orders going through properly. Rosie needed 18 pills a day for her heart medication, so this naturally brought about a lot of anxiety when she couldn’t get them easily.
“The government have a system identifying vulnerable people, although it took them 4 weeks to write to me, but not in helping people deal with what this means in practise.
“The receptionist, the doctor (if it isn’t my named GP), the people over the phone, well they don’t know me, or perhaps understand the urgency of my medication needs. If I was there in person, I can get my point across but I can’t do that on the phone. I had to go to bed with angina I was so worried about getting my medication – I was down to the last tablet. In the end I was able to get in touch with a good friend who was a retired medic. The friend was able to steer me in the right direction to get help.
“Getting groceries was also a challenge but, 5 weeks in, we’ve got a system going now so we’re ok. But it’s taken us a while and not everyone has the help available to them."
Who to turn to for help
If you have been asked to 'shield' you can register for help in getting essential supplies and support for your basic care needs.
Visit the NHS website for a list of helplines that help you know where to go for help for your mental health.
If you need support and do not have a close network nearby, contact your local authority or community aid groups for help.
If you need help and advice about your local health and social care services, contact your local Healthwatch.
With a high level of fear among the population, it can be hard to know what to do about a condition, either existing or new. To help Rosie know what to do, her GP worked with her to work out an action plan. After originally phoning her once a week to check in and see how she’s doing, Rosie decided that she wanted his time to be spent with others in greater need as she was doing ok.
Rosie’s GP phoned her to work out plans for a range of scenarios e.g. what to do if she had another heart attack, what to do if she couldn’t get medication.
Rosie’s mindfulness tips
With a previous role in the NHS, work for 17 years in Clinical psychology and training in Clinical hypnosis, Rosie told us how in the middle of being humorous, it was important to take some time out and practise mindfulness or self soothing. Once a day she takes time out to practise.
- Close your eyes and place your back against the door, feel the doorknob in your back.
- Tell yourself that all the people that you care about are behind you, and they’re safe, and you can leave all of your worries behind.
- Focus on your breathing, breathing in for seven seconds, and out until you get to eleven seconds, but do not labour or force your breathing, just whatever feels comfortable. Do this on repeat.
- In your mind, walk along a path to your special place taking note of the things you see smell and hear around you, really feel the sun or the grass or sand under your feet. Your special place could be a beach, a wood, a park. Wherever it is, this is your special place that you can go to feel safe, cocooned and relaxed.
Ending on a positive note
When asked what she would tell people that were in a similar, if not worse situation, Rosie said:
“Although you feel absolutely alone and physically you might be on your own, know there is a world going on out there, so you aren’t on your own. We’re all connected, the end of isolation will come.
“Hold your friends and family close to you in your mind and in your heart and you will get through it."