If you are over 70 years old or are categorised as vulnerable,
then you have been advised to “cocoon”.
This means staying away from other people so that you are better protected from COVID-19.
This can feel unnatural and a little unsettling, so we’ve put together some advice to try to make it a little easier.
Advice for those cocooning
Ireland has moved into Phase 3 of the government's Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business. As part of the easing of restrictions, the public health advice for those who have been cocooning has been updated.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has updated their guidance,
and this is available online to support those who are cocooning, their families and carers.
It is not possible to eliminate all risk so everyone should exercise their own judgement regarding the extent to which the cocooning guidance applies to them.
Shopping and accessing services
It is best to go shopping during designated hours for those cocooning. Retail and other sectors are encouraged to designate specific retail hours for over 70s and extremely medically vulnerable who are at the highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19 infection.
The wearing of face coverings is recommended when visiting retail outlets, along with the public health advice to:
stay at 2 metres distance from others
wear a face covering when in shops
wash your hands for 20 seconds when you return home
practise good coughing etiquette
The public health advice remains in place: for people who have been cocooning it is still important to stay at home as much as possible. To limit the risk to your health, follow the public health advice on hand washing, face coverings, coughing and respiratory etiquette and stay at a 2 metre distance from other people when receiving visitors into your home or when going out and accessing services in your community.
The HPSC guidance for those who are cocooning has been updated and is available here.
Minding your long term health condition during COVID-19
Those who have long term health conditions may be more at risk from serious illness related to COVID-19 and will need to take extra care to protect themselves.
Here are some simple tips for taking care of yourself during this time:
continue to monitor your condition and make sure to call your GP if your condition worsens. GP's are still there for all those who need them
continue to take your medications and make sure that you don't run out. Talk to your GP or your pharmacist if you have any concerns
stress can worsen your condition. Make sure to look after your mental health by staying connected to loved ones, keeping active, and doing activities that you enjoy
For more information, the HSE self management support team have developed an information leaflet with great advice on how to take the best care of yourself while cocooning.
The National Cancer Control Programme, Cancer Care West and the Irish Cancer Society have set up a dedicated national telephone service to provide comprehensive specialist support to cancer patients, survivors, their families and carers, who may be feeling very distressed at this time. The service is also available for children and teenagers using appropriately trained and vetted practitioners.
This remote service, which is confidential and free, is available nationwide, 7 days per week, for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, and is delivered by qualified cancer care professionals.
The Together 4 Cancer Concern helpline will be in operation from 9am to 8pm Monday to Thursday and from 9am to 5pm Friday to Sunday. To contact the helpline please call: 1800 200 700 or email email@example.com
If you are concerned for your safety while cocooning, there are plenty of supports out there to help with whatever concerns you may have:
if you receive essential care from friends, family members, or care workers, speak to your carers about extra precautions they can take to keep you safe. Speak to your carers about backup plans for your care in case your main carer is unwell and needs to self-isolate
local authorities – all local authorities are working with voluntary services to ensure that no one is without essential food or medicines. Find details for your local authority here
is providing a telephone support line, seven days a week from 8am – 8pm, for all older people, their families, and those who are medically vulnerable. If you need any advice, reassurance or additional support call them at: 0818 222024
Gardaí – if you have any safety concerns, or need any essential items brought to you, contact the Gardaí, they will be more than happy to assist you or direct you to relevant services
Caring for others who are cocooning
If you are taking care of someone who is cocooning, either as a volunteer, a family member or a carer, it is vital that you take all precautions to ensure that those you are caring for are kept safe and well.
Alternatively, if you are not a registered volunteer but are aware of any vulnerable people around you, a simple call or text on a regular basis to check in with them, to see if they need anything can be a huge help. If they do ask you to get essential items for them, make sure to also follow the guidelines above.
If you are caring for someone who is suffering from dementia, the HSE Understand Together team have come together with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland to create a booklet on activities to do at home while cocooning. You can find the booklet below.
At home activities
A selection of at home activities for people with dementia, their families and carers.