Caring at a distance

In this section, we talk about people’s thoughts on finding a way to care at a distance, and how they supported others living outside of the immediate household.

People expressed significant worries about older adults, or adults with significant health issues who were living alone or without outside support. People we talked with also worried about providing support to parents, caring for new babies or for family members who had suffered bereavements. In this section, we explore people’s reflections on navigating their responsibilities for care at a distance, including:

  • Providing care and support to people living nearby
  • Providing support to people living further away

Caring for people living nearby

Many people we spoke to who were responsible for caring for others living nearby felt that they simply had to provide this care and did not thinking twice about the risk of catching Covid through care.

Elvis was not worried about catching Covid from his father because he was more concerned about looking after him.

This was even in situations when caregiving could put themselves, or the person they were caring for, at risk of Covid. Some people described making precise calculations of the risk of Covid transmission. Sue was happy to care for her elderly parents partly because, unlike her siblings, she lived on her own so she felt she wouldn’t be putting anybody else at risk if she were to contract Covid. She described making these decisions about the risk of Covid transmission ‘with her heart’.

Sue described calculating the risks of Covid transmission when she was caring for her elderly parents.

Providing care and support was extremely important to people we spoke to and made them feel like ‘good’ humans. When social distancing rules and guidelines made people question whether they should provide care or support, this made them feel bad, and sometimes created rifts in relationships.

Abdul ignored doubts about whether it would be safe to attend his nephew’s funeral because he wanted to support his bereaved family.

Relationships in Kashif’s family were tested when not everyone attended a funeral.

Samena described ringing a government helpline to check whether she was allowed to provide care to her elderly parents in spite of the social distancing rules and guidance. Other people we spoke tried to find way of working around social distancing rules and guidance so they could provide care to others.

People felt that the support bubbles policy, which let people create a support network linking two households, was helpful in enabling them to provide care.

Claudia formed a support bubble with her mother to help her feel less isolated.

Sometimes people we spoke to were going into another person’s home to provide care and support. They described being aware of the risks of Covid transmission. They tried to limit the risks in a number of ways:

  • maintaining physical distance
  • wearing masks and visors
  • cleaning surfaces
  • keeping windows open

However, people described how even with all these efforts Covid could still be transmitted in close contact.

Sue was mostly socially distant with her father, but sometimes he wanted to hold her hand.

To make it easier to provide care, some people we spoke to moved in with the person they were caring for, or had that person move in with them. This could bring new risks of Covid transmission if, for example, one person in the new household was being exposed to Covid in other places.

When Pooja had Covid, one daughter went to live with her parents and another daughter stayed at home.

Providing support to others living further away

People we spoke to described wanting to check in on others living further away and make sure they were okay. Phone calls, WhatsApp groups and video calls became an important channel for providing support to others who were far away. Helen thought that phone calls weren’t good enough for finding out how people were coping. Pooja and Matt valued these avenues for keeping in touch and checking that vulnerable family members were not feeling isolated.

Pooja valued a group chat with her siblings and cousins as a way of checking in on older relatives.

Matt talks about how regular zoom calls in his family provided valuable support to older people.

For those with family overseas international travel was very important in being able to provide care and support to vulnerable family members. Razia described her mother’s struggles in visiting the UK during the pandemic to help with the care of new babies in the family.

Razia’s mother wanted to be with her at the end of her pregnancy, so she went through the difficulties of international travel.

For more on people’s reflections on caring within the household, see ‘Caring for each other and managing transmission of Covid at home‘.

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