COVID-19 Support Bubbles for Older People

Ed CrottyUncategorized

The concept of Support Bubbles for Older People has been included in the latest round of COVID related Government restrictions.  The latest advice for those aged over 70 and the medically vulnerable is to continue to exercise personal judgement. It is recommended that these groups stay at home as much as possible, limit engagement to a very small network for short periods of time, while remaining physically distanced. When taking exercise outdoors, it is important to maintain 2 metres distance from others and wash hands on returning home. It is recommended to shop during designated hours only, while wearing a face covering, and to avoid public transport

Extended Household Concept

In order to support those who risk isolation, such as single adult households and those who have shared parenting or shared custody arrangements; those living alone who have mental health challenges, or those living with partner with dementia for example, it will be possible for those in such circumstances to nominate one other household with whom they can mix. This will allow for social support beyond the caring exemptions already available.

“Therefore, we are including, as part of the ‘own household’ provisions, the concept of a ‘support bubble’. “This will allow persons living alone, parenting alone or similarly at risk of social isolation to pair with one other household as part of a ‘support bubble’.  Those over 70 have also been advised to exercise their own judgement and limit their social contacts as much as possible but there is no requirement to cocoon as was recommended during the last lockdown.

What are support bubbles for Older People?

Support bubbles for Older People are close support networks between a household with only one adult in the home and one other household of any size.  People who are living or parenting alone may pair with another household instead of being restricted to only meeting one other household outdoors. They may have physical contact with each other, instead of observing social distancing rules.  There are also exemptions to visiting restrictions on compassionate grounds, or to facilitate childcare.  This may extend to multiple households if the virus levels fall so that these people can meet and interact, within their own ‘bubble’, as if they all live together.  However, if anyone in the bubble develops coronavirus symptoms, everyone in it must self-isolate or quarantine.

The measure was used in New Zealand earlier in the year.

Research from the London School of Economics shows that Support Bubbles for Older People can reduce loneliness and improve mental health, but also help against the spread of coronavirus as people exclude themselves to a defined group of social contacts.  They were found to be a way to recognise that many do not live in a typical ‘nuclear family’ and that a lot of people have highly varied living arrangements.  “There are over 400,000 people in Ireland who live alone, and a further 200,000 single parent households.  A household visit ban while necessary to control the virus is unnecessarily blunt and cruel for those living alone.  The research shows that they reduce loneliness and improve mental health, but also help against the spread of coronavirus as people exclude themselves to a defined group of social contacts.  They were found to be a way to recognise that many do not live in a typical ‘nuclear family’ and that a lot of people have highly varied living arrangements.

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