Covid: how can I help someone who's been shielding as restrictions ease?

Returning to a more normal life, as restrictions ease over the next few months, may be difficult for some people. A year is a long time, and people have formed new habits during the lockdowns.

Age UK in Leicestershire say many older people may have lost confidence, after being isolated for much of the last year.

Leicester has faced restrictions longer than any city in the country.

Anxiety about being once again in social situations will have to be overcome, and old ways which used to come so easily, like making plans, physically touching, and spontaneous decision making will have to be relearned.

"We've seen a huge increase in people needing additional support, like telephone befriending, and we're finding that people are saying they're wanting the restrictions to ease, but they're struggling with anxiety about being out in larger numbers around people. It's going to stop people leaving their homes if they don't get additional support."

- Julia Day, Age UK

Psychologist Dr Charlotte Hilton has some suggestions to help with making the first steps back to social contact.

  • Accept the feelings

We need to recognise that it's very normal to feel anxious about changing routines after being in lockdown for 12 months.

Older people may have been in lockdown without any technology to help them keep in touch with the outside world, so it's a normal response to an unusual situation.

  • Prepare for that first outing

We can feel most anxious when things take us by surprise. So if someone is planning their first trip to the shops, tell them what to expect - staff in face masks, hand sanitiser by the door, a one way system, signs and tape everywhere.

  • Talk about anxiety

We should all talk about our feelings with people we trust. It helps to normalise feelings. So offer to be that listening ear.

  • Make a strategy

A strategy could help that first outing be as quick and straightforward as possible. So plan where to park and the order of the shops you're going to go to, and plan to go at a quieter time of day.

  • Think about yourself

Friends and relatives may make all sorts of suggestions of ways to meet up which are Covid secure. Help someone making that first trip out to put their own comfort first. and compromise on suggestions to fit with what they feel able to do.

  • Ann Abson is looking forward to seeing family and getting back to watching Leicester City.

Who was asked to shield?

In the latest lockdown people who are classed as "clinically extremely vulnerable/at high risk" or have been added to the Shielded Patient List by their GP were told to shield.

This included people who had received organ transplants, had specific cancers, were on immunosuppression therapies or severe respiratory conditions.

People who are "clinically vulnerable / at moderate risk" were not asked to shield but the NHS urged them to practice social distancing.

Many people also chose to limit their risk by avoiding as many social situations as possible.