Going to public places and shopping during coronavirus

Since coronavirus restrictions were eased, it has been possible to get out more and visit places such as cafés, cinemas, pubs and leisure facilities. While this has been a positive step for many, readjusting to visiting public places can still be a challenge for many including people with dementia.

  1. Helping a person with dementia to keep safe and well during coronavirus
  2. You are here: Going to public places and shopping during coronavirus

Supporting the person with dementia in public places

Many people have lost confidence or skills due to the lockdowns and changes in guidance. They may also feel unsettled because of ongoing changes to restrictions and guidance. For some people, learning how to do things differently is difficult.

People affected by dementia have told us about other difficulties such as:

  • being unsettled by people with their faces covered, or confused about why some people are wearing masks while others are not
  • difficulty knowing when they are supposed to wear a face covering and what the guidance is in different places
  • feeling confused with familiar people or places they’ve not seen for a while
  • losing confidence and being ‘out of practice’ in being out in public or interacting socially
  • becoming disorientated by social distancing measures such as one-way systems, barriers and screens in public places which might remain in some places
  • being confused by unfamiliar signs or floor markings in shops and public areas, which might remain in some places
  • wanting to be closer to other people and being confused or upset if they move away from them
  • being worried about other people feeling too close in queues and crowded aisles
  • lost confidence using public transport
  • feeling lonely or anxious, and approaching someone too closely.

You may find yourself in a difficult situation where the person you care for is finding it hard to readjust to being in public or know what the specific guidelines are for that particular location.

Ask for the patience and understanding of people around you. It can help to make short trips to the same places to get the person used to the new guidance, then gradually build up to longer visits to other places.

Pay attention to the signs and displays about hand sanitising, one-way systems and limits on numbers in places you visit. If you’re unsure about the guidance in a particular place and you want to go in, try calling their customer service centre or speaking to a member of staff when you arrive.

See our information on wearing face coverings for people with dementia.

It is still important for a person with dementia to keep safe and minimise risk. See our advice on continuing to keep safe and well.

If the person has difficulty wearing a face covering when needed, read our advice on face masks and how to help. 

Tips that may also help the person adjust:

  • travelling and visiting places at quieter times
  • before travelling, look for any updates or changes to transport timetables. Buy tickets or top up any travelcards over the phone or online so that you won’t need to do this at the station or at the bus stop
  • encouraging the person to carry an ‘I have dementia’ or other help card to show as needed
  • asking them if they’d like to wear a ‘Please give me space’ or sunflower lanyard
  • going to smaller, quieter venues or places with outdoor seating to get used to being out again, before going to larger or more crowded places
  • making sure you know where the toilets and customer service desk are in each venue
  • asking a member of staff what changes have been made so you know what to expect
  • asking for support from the venue or people you know in your local community – if the person agrees and it can be done sensitively without causing upset
  • using a card to pay rather than cash. This minimises the contact you will have with other people and items.

Difficulties with essential shopping

If you are struggling to go out and get shopping, or having trouble getting food delivered, contact your local authority, council or trust. Explain clearly how low on essentials you are, what is stopping you from getting more, and that you have no one else to help.  

You can also call our  Dementia Connect support line for more information.

Whether you have shopping 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 could allow you to access priority customer service.

Getting shopping delivered

You may prefer the convenience of having grocery shopping delivered if you can. 

During lockdown some supermarkets reserved delivery and ‘click and collect’ slots for vulnerable customers. You will need to contact each supermarket to find out if they are still offering this, and how to register for a priority slot. If it’s more convenient, get someone you trust to place the priority order online for you.

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
  • local community volunteer groups – set up by your parish council, local faith community or a group of local volunteers. They may be able to help you with essentials
  • NHS Community Response Volunteers – set up by the Royal Volunteer Service and NHS, responders can help you with shopping or collecting a prescription. Call 0808 196 3646 for information about being referred to the scheme.

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.

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