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Carers: Getting back to work after shielding

Working as a carer is a vocation as much as a profession for many people. As a carer, even if you’re in an at-risk group and have been shielding yourself as a vulnerable person, chances are you may need to return to work, despite the continuing presence of COVID-19 in the wider world.

Both you and your patient could be equally vulnerable to infection – so how do you protect yourself and your clients? And how do you safely work in the wider world after such a long time spent shielding? We’ve put together this guide to help you get back out there – as safely and as happily as possible.


Safety is paramount

Although the UK government is allowing people to go to work if they cannot work from home, for those of us who have been shielding, it’s incredibly important that we feel safe and secure in doing so.

As a care worker, it’s vital that you feel what you are doing professionally is safe for both you and your clients. Therefore, it’s essential that you take the matter of safety seriously. Is the provision of personal protective equipment sufficient for both you and your clients? Do you feel confident that the appropriate safety measures have been undertaken by the organisation you work for? Remember, the government’s shielding guidelines are there to protect you, so you must only return to work if you feel it is safe to do so.


Take things one step at a time

Spending so much time isolated in your own home can often make the wider world feel like a scary place. Therefore, as you ease your way back into it, it’s important that you do so gradually. So take small measures, and approach things bit by bit.


Perhaps start by standing at an open door or window, or by spending a bit of time in your garden. If you’re feeling confident, take a short walk in a quiet area near you. If you drive for work, then begin to take short trips in the car. By taking these initial measures, you’ll most likely feel much more comfortable about returning to the workplace when the time is suitable to do so.


Consider working flexible hours

It may be that you feel ready to return to work but are nervous about prolonged periods in a working environment. If so, you might want to look at working shorter hours than had previously been the case. Alternatively, you may want to be flexible in the hours you work so that you can commute to and from your clients’ locations without doing so in rush hour, where social distancing safely could prove harder.


Be aware of how you are feeling

Returning to work after shielding can bring a complicated mix of emotions. You may well be happy that you are once again able to act in your role as a carer, but you could be anxious and worried about being in situations away from the safety of your home. That’s perfectly okay – and it’s important that you acknowledge how you’re feeling, since recognising anxieties can help you deal with them.

Remember, too, that you should seek support when you feel you need to – talk to your manager or your HR rep and explore what they can do to help you feel safe in your return to work.


Monitor your physical health

It almost goes without saying that, as a carer, you will be keenly aware of the health needs of your clients, and will habitually monitor the state of their physical health. But be aware of yours, too, as a vulnerable person. If you notice any possible COVID-related symptoms in yourself, or in others with whom you have had close contact, get yourself tested.


In times of stress, try the BPM method

This is a technique to help you regain control if you start to feel overwhelmed. It stands for ‘breathe, pause, and move forward’.

First, breathe. Take a deep breath, close your eyes and anchor yourself in the moment. This will let you focus on how you are feeling. Next, pause. This is a moment that you need to take to explore all your options and work out how you are feeling, what you need to do next or who can help you to do so. Finally, move forward: choose the path of action you feel will help you most in the moment and act decisively. You know you are doing the best you can and you are acting accordingly.

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