Shopping during coronavirus for food and other essentials

If you are at home most of the time, not having your usual stock of food, medication or other basics can be a worry. This is common as we all find ways to cope with coronavirus lockdown. You are not alone.

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Concerns about supplies of food, medication and other basics started before lockdown. Here are our suggestions to help you get through this difficult time.

If you try all these and are still struggling, contact your local authority, council or trust, or call our Dementia Connect support line. Say clearly how low on essentials you are, what is stopping you getting more, and that you have no one else to help. 

Shopping for food

People with dementia and those supporting them report multiple problems with food shopping. These include:

  • not being able to get a delivery slot in time
  • shops not recognising people with dementia and older carers as priority customers
  • ‘silver’ or priority hours for older shoppers being very inconvenient
  • having to stand in long queues outside
  • not being allowed into the shop with another person.

Food shops are generally open and most have adapted their services. But you will need to find out how your usual shops are running.

Find the details from friends or neighbours, local newspapers, websites or community Facebook groups. Try calling the supermarket customer service centre. The government also has regular updates on what different retailers are doing to help.

Whether you have supplies delivered or go out to shop yourself, mention that you are a carer for someone with dementia, who is vulnerable. This can help as long as you both feel comfortable doing this and if you trust the person you’re telling. It may not be easy but it could make the difference between getting a priority customer service and not. 

Customers with a disability including dementia have a right to ask for reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act. If you feel you should get priority support and are not able to, please email us your experiences.

Can I have shopping delivered?

Many people affected by dementia are preferring the convenience of having supplies delivered where they can. Unless you have been asked to stay at home because of a specific health condition (‘shielding’), you are allowed to go out to shop as needed. Think about arranging a delivery if you would normally use public transport or if you’re worried about coming too close to people not in your household while you’re out.

Supermarkets are offering more slots for delivery and ‘click and collect’, but both are very busy. Supermarkets are reserving more of these slots for vulnerable customers. You will need to contact each supermarket for the details of how you can be registered for a priority slot. If it’s more convenient, get someone you trust to place the priority order online for you. 

Some supermarkets are also now selling weekly food boxes for delivery. These can meet common dietary requirements. It’s not the same as if you’d chosen every item for yourself, but each box does include common store-cupboard items. 

You might find that smaller local food and convenience stores are now offering a delivery service or food boxes, as well as other suppliers. Contact them to find out more and how to pay.

Expect all deliveries to be left securely to reduce the risk of infection. The driver will knock or ring your bell but not come indoors. It’s OK to chat from a distance or through an open window.

If you can’t arrange an order, there are other ways to get supplies delivered. You could look into:

  • asking a friend, family member or neighbour – this may well be the most convenient way to get the shopping in
  • local community volunteer groups – set up by your parish council, local faith community or a group of local volunteers. They should be able to help you with essentials
  • NHS volunteer responders – set up by the Royal Volunteer Service and NHS, responders can help you with shopping or collecting a prescription. Call Alzheimer's Society on 0333 150 3456 to be referred to the scheme.

You may feel worried about dealing with people whom you probably don’t know. The schemes above do check their volunteers. Many retailers have also started a giftcard or voucher scheme. You pay for these in advance either online or by phone, so don’t have to hand over your bank card or cash to someone shopping for you. As well as this, many supermarkets and shops are set up for someone else to shop for you, and then you pay over the phone through their customer service desk.

Any help you are offered should be free of charge. Nobody should ask you for any money for their help.

Read advice on how to make payments safely from the Royal Voluntary Service and UK Finance. We have more about avoiding COVID-19 scams.

Can I go out to shop?

You can go out to shop, but you will need to follow the government guidance very carefully to keep the risk from coronavirus as low as possible. The guidance that matters here includes:

  • not using public transport to shop – unless you have no alternative
  • covering your face – see our advice on face coverings and masks for people with dementia
  • washing hands carefully – when you get back home, and consider taking hand sanitising gel out with you
  • following social distancing measures that shops are setting in place - for example using floor markings for safer queueing and shopping.

Shops have to limit the number of customers they can let in at any time. They are also asking people inside the shop to stay two metres (three steps) apart from each other and perhaps follow a one-way system inside. This is to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection so we can all shop safely.

Watch the government’s video on how to shop safely


Someone with dementia out shopping may find these measures harder to understand or deal with. For example, they might:

  • struggle to understand the floor markings or routes round the shop
  • become confused by staff or other customers with covered faces 
  • struggle to wear a face covering themselves
  • forget to stay two metres from people outside their household.

If you do find yourseif in a difficult situation, ask for the patience and understanding of people round you. Having a helpcard, a ‘Please give me space’ badge or sunflower lanyard may help. (You can request a sunflower lanyard from Tesco and Sainsbury’s customer service desks, as well as ask for support to help shopping regardless.)

Many larger supermarkets have introduced a ‘vulnerable’ or ‘silver hour’ at the start of the day for older customers or those with extra needs. This may mean you can avoid a long queue and you should also find other customers are also being extra careful.

If this doesn’t work for you, let the supermarket know and they should be able to help support you to shop at different times.


To stay well, the whole household must have all the medication they need. Follow our suggestions and you should not need to worry about medicines running out.

You, or the person you care for, may need repeat prescriptions. During the pandemic you must not visit the GP surgery or a pharmacy to order these.

Instead, order repeat prescriptions online if you are able to – or get someone you trust to do this for you. Phone your GP surgery or local pharmacy if you need help to do this or if you can’t order online. GPs are busy so if you phone them be patient. 

To get medicines safely delivered, you will need to choose to have them either:

  • sent to a local pharmacy of your choice – a family member, trusted friend or volunteer responder can then collect them for you


  • delivered direct to your home.

Order your usual supply. But do allow extra time as deliveries are very busy at the moment. If you face any difficulties explain these clearly to the pharmacy. If they know they should prioritise you. 

As with shopping, anyone dropping off your medicines will knock or ring the bell, wait for you to open the door, and leave the medicine outside. They will keep two metres away at all times. 

Last updated 10 August

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