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Planning for emergencies

As a carer you need to know that if an emergency happens, replacement care will get sorted out speedily and efficiently.

When you care for someone, life cannot simply be put on hold when the person you are looking after relies on you for vital help and support. 

When help is urgently needed, you might contact a family member, friend or neighbour who would be willing to cover in an emergency, but we know that this isn't always possible.

If you feel you have no one to turn to, see our section: What support is available where I live? For additional care support, you could request help from your local council or local health and social care trust (in Northern Ireland) and consider requesting an assessment for support in the long term.

This section suggests what you can do to create an emergency plan.

Creating an emergency plan

We advise all carers to create an emergency plan – for you and all those you look after. Having a plan in place can help ease your worries if you are not able to care for those you look after at any point in the future. We can guide you through the process of creating one through our interactive online tool:

In order to create an emergency plan that meets your needs, we recommend you consider bringing together these details:

  • details of the name, address and contact details of the person you look after
  • who you and the person you look after would like to be contacted in an emergency – this might include friends, family or professionals
  • details of any medication the person you look after is taking and where it is stored
  • details of any ongoing treatment they need
  • noting details of any allergies
  • details of their GP and pharmacy
  • any ongoing treatment they need
  • any care and support services they receive
  • any continence products needed and who supplies them
  • any mobility challenges and mobility aids such as a wheelchair or hoist
  • anything behavioural others need to be aware of.

Having this important information in one place could be of immense support and help when needed at a critical time, when time might be limited. Talk about the plan with the person you care for, if possible, and also with those you would like to be named emergency contacts. 

It would also be useful to share it with trusted family members or friends and healthcare professionals. Give people a copy of the plan – or let them know where they can find it and make sure the information is regularly updated. 

Some other useful tips

Think about whether there are alternative ways of getting shopping to the person/people you care for. Trusted neighbours or local support groups can help. See which organisations could help where you live during the pandemic.

Prepare a single hospital bag for the person you look after. This should include their emergency contact, a list of the types of medication they take (including dose and frequency), any details of planned care appointments and things you would need for an overnight stay (snacks, pyjamas, toothbrush, medication etc). If they have an advanced care plan, please include that. You could also prepare one for yourself if you feel that you are at higher risk from coronavirus. See the list of those who are at higher risk.

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Involving others in the plan

You may be able to arrange help and support from family and friends but it can be reassuring to have the involvement of your local council/trust in case informal arrangements fall through. If you cannot organise alternative care, contact your local authority or health care provider.

Another way of gaining support in the long term is through arranging an assessment for the person you look after or a carer's assessment for yourself. See our webpage on assessments for the person you look after and carers' assessments for further information. Every carer who has an assessment should be asked about emergencies and offered help to plan for them. 

How technology can help 

If someone you're caring for lives at a distance, it's important to consider how technology can help you keep in touch and alert you to any problems to give you both peace of mind.

You may find it valuable to explore Facetime or Zoom as a way to talk face to face, though at a distance. There are apps and devices that are specifically designed with carers' needs in mind such as Jointly, a mobile and online app that enables you to make communicating and coordinating care among friends and family for the person you're looking after, easier.

There is also technology that can help with particular tasks, in case you can't be around, such as managing taking medication. Read more about different types of remote technology that are available to help.

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Emergency 'carer card' schemes

In some areas there are emergency card schemes that have been set up for carers, often by the local council/trust or a local carers centre. This might be called:

  • Carer card scheme
  • Carers emergency card
  • Emergency care scheme

In these instances, carers are usually asked to register and, with help from a skilled worker, draw up their emergency plans. The plans are held by the scheme which provides a 24-hour response service. Carers carry a card with the scheme's telephone number and a unique identification number to avoid any personal details appearing on the card.

In some areas they are integrated with police, fire and ambulance services. In the event of an emergency, you or someone with you would call the scheme. An operator would look up your emergency plan and make arrangements for replacement care. This could involve contacting friends or family, or putting in place professional help. Plans will have been shared with them so they know the individual requirements of the person requiring care, such as medication.

Check with your local carers' organisation to see if such a scheme operates in your area.

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