Mike and Tom have been shielding from coronavirus since March but have struggled to access food. As restrictions begin to ease, Mike worries about what Government support will remain so they can access food and other essential items.
Mike and Tom’s story
My name is Mike Parish and I am a full-time carer. My partner Tom, who has late stage dementia, was identified as vulnerable. We received a letter asking him to stay indoors for three months.
Tom is solely dependent on me for every daily need, including washing, eating and dressing. To avoid putting him at any risk, I have also been isolating for the last three months.
Three weeks without fresh food
Shopping for food for my partner has been critically difficult. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, I was unable to get any food.
I logged onto the government website as suggested in Tom’s NHS letter but it didn’t let me register. Because I was not personally regarded as vulnerable, I also couldn’t book a priority delivery slot with my supermarket because they would only recognise an account in Tom’s name.
‘I couldn’t put Tom at risk by taking him to the shops, but I couldn’t leave him either.’
For three weeks we did not have any access to fresh food or any of the essentials. Luckily, I found some out-of-date long-life milk and some orange juice to keep us going.
Tom relies on three nutritious meals a day. I was scrambling around trying to make something edible.
I can’t imagine how many more people were in my predicament, or who perhaps had no other choice but to put dependent loved ones at risk by shopping or collecting shopping.
Struggling to secure food deliveries
We have reached a relatively secure situation with our food, but it’s still a bit of a mess and a large source of anxiety.
At the moment, it’s still potluck as to exactly when I might be able to get a food delivery slot. When I found out we had access to a delivery slot, it was still nearly a two week wait until there was one available.
For thousands of families in situations like ours, deliveries are the only safe means of securing food. This has been a key issue for us throughout the pandemic, particularly in the early weeks. And all because we were doing as the government advised.
It’s needed a disproportionate amount of effort to get access to food – on top of our daily 24-hour unpaid caring role, I think most carers could do without this added stress.
The future of our new normality
As a nation we are looking at lockdown being eased with a new normality on the horizon. However, for people like Tom, I can’t honestly see an end to the risk he faces in the near future.
Until there is significant confidence in the risk of infection being very low or that treatment or a vaccine are available, people declared as vulnerable must still be protected.
This means that the need for prioritised and guaranteed delivery slots must continue, and they must be available to everyone who needs them.
Retailers need to ensure that vulnerable people can continue to access food safely, even after the rest of the general population thinks the risk has passed.
I do appreciate that we’re in extraordinary times. I’m not expecting miracles. But the whole purpose of isolation is to protect people and prevent vulnerable people being put at risk.
We are mostly all survivors, we make things happen, but sometimes people might not be in a position to ask for the essential support needed.
How Alzheimer's Society is helping to change things for the better
Since the coronavirus outbreak, Alzheimer’s Society has been working across industries and sectors to make sure people affected by dementia are not forgotten by Government and given support in local authority support schemes.
- We secured the government’s commitment that people with dementia, their families and carers should get priority support from local authorities and supermarkets.
- We have also succeeded in ensuring local authorities’ definition of ‘non shielded vulnerable’ people specifically includes ‘people with dementia’ and ‘unpaid carers’.
- We are breaking down many of the barriers people affected by dementia, including Mike as an unpaid carer, are facing in accessing food.
We continue to push for further action and clarity, and we hope that these changes will mean fewer people will have to go through what Mike and Tom have been through.
Are you having trouble with access to food?
If you have been facing similar challenges when accessing food or support, or you are concerned about a loved one, please contact the NHS Volunteer Responders. You can call them on 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm). Alternatively, contact your local authority.