What is cocooning?

Protecting vulnerable groups during COVID-19
  • Deborah Condon

As part of the latest restrictions announced by the Government in relation to COVID-19 (coronavirus), people over the age of 70 and those who are considered extremely medically vulnerable to the virus are to be cocooned.

But that does this mean?

Cocooning is a practice which is being used to protect these particular groups because they are at very high risk of experiencing severe illness as a result of COVID-19.

Extremely medically vulnerable people include cancer patients, those with severe respiratory conditions, such as COPD, severe asthma and cystic fibrosis, and those with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections, such as homozygous sickle cell.

As part of cocooning, between March 28 and May 5, everyone in these groups is being asked to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact with others.

Within their homes, they should also minimise interactions with others.

The specific measures for the next two weeks are:
-Strictly avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of COVID-19. These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough and/or breathing difficulties
-Do not leave your house
-Do not attend any gatherings. This includes gatherings of friends and families in private spaces, for example, family homes, weddings and religious services
-Do not go out for shopping and when arranging food or medication deliveries, these should be left at the door to minimise contact
-Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media
-Use your telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services
-Ensure you keep phones/devices charged, and have credit on your phone, so that you can stay connected.

If you are over 70 or are very medically vulnerable to COVID-19, and live with someone else, you should:
-Stay away from other people in your home most of the time in a well ventilated room with a window to the outside that you can open
-If you have to go into the same room with other people at home, you should try to keep at least one metre (3ft), and where possible, 2 metres away from them
-You should clean your hands regularly and practice good respiratory etiquette
-If you can, you should use a toilet and bathroom that no one else in the house uses
-If you cannot have your own toilet and bathroom, the toilet and bathroom you use needs to be kept clean. Another tip is to consider drawing up a rota for bathing, with you using the facilities first
-Make sure you use separate towels from the other people in your house, both for drying themselves after bathing or showering, and for hand-hygiene purposes
-If you share a kitchen with others, avoid using it while they are present. If you can, you should take your meals back to your room to eat. If you have one, use a dishwasher to clean and dry the family's used crockery and cutlery. If this is not possible, wash them using your usual washing-up liquid and warm water and dry them thoroughly. Do not share cutlery and utensils. When using your own utensils, remember to use a separate tea towel for drying these
-Clean all surfaces, such as counters, table-tops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets and toilet handles, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables, every day with a cleaning product
-When cleaning, you should use your usual household products, like detergents and bleach, as these will be very effective at getting rid of the virus. Follow the instructions on the manufacturer's label and check they can be used on the surface you are cleaning

While this may be difficult, you should do your very best to follow this guidance and everyone in your household should regularly wash their hands, avoid touching their face, and clean frequently touched surfaces such as door handles and table tops.

If the rest of your household stringently follows this advice, there is no need for them to also cocoon alongside you.

If you need help with food and medicines, in the first instance, family, friends and neighbours can support you once you adhere to cocooning guidelines and they adhere to physical distancing guidelines.

Where possible use online services. If these options are not available to you, the Government is putting in place assistance through local authorities and voluntary sector services to ensure you can have access to food, essential household supplies and medicines.

Each local authority will publish contact details.

ALONE is also providing a telephone support line, seven days a week from 8am to 8pm, for all older people and their families. If anyone needs advice, reassurance or additional support, call 0818 222 024. This support line is also open to extremely medically vulnerable people.

The support line complements the clinical advice being provided by the HSE through its website and helpline (www.hse.ie). If you receive support from health and social care organisations, for example, if you have care provided for you through the local authority or health care system, this will continue as normal.

If you have a scheduled hospital or other medical appointment during this period, talk to your GP or specialist on the phone to ensure you continue to receive the care you need and determine which appointments are absolutely essential.

It is possible that your hospital may need to cancel or postpone some clinics and appointments. You should contact your hospital or clinic to confirm appointments.

When it comes to visitors to your home, let your family and friends know that you are cocooning and that they should not visit you during this time unless they are providing essential care for you, such as washing, dressing or feeding.

People are also reminded to try and stay mentally and physically healthy. For example, If you have a garden or backyard, go out and get some fresh air, but keep away from other people including neighbours, or try spending time with the windows open to let in the fresh air and get some natural sunlight.

Spend time doing things you enjoy, such as reading, baking, listening to the radio or watching TV.

Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water, exercise regularly, and try to avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs.

If you are feeling anxious or lonely, pick up the phone and call a family member or friend. You can also call the Samaritans on 116 123.

For more information on cocooning, click here. For more information on COVID-19, click here.


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