We desperately need support to continue when shielding is paused

Carol has emphysema, a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). She’s been shielding since March. In this blog, she discusses how she feels about shielding coming to an end, and the support she wants to see continue.

I’ve been shielding since March with my husband. I’m a carer for him and have borderline very severe emphysema. Living with a long-term lung condition, I am used to periods of self-isolation, but this has been extreme. For most people lockdown is coming to an end. Shielding is supposed to be paused in August, but the reality is for many of us, it will continue on out of necessity.

Shielding being paused makes me feel less safe.

After months confined to our homes, I know from previous experience my immune system will be compromised. Before COVID, the risk of infection from colds and flu was already high. Our time indoors won’t have made it any easier.

I try to counter my risk of infection by keeping active and healthy eating, as well as looking after my general wellbeing. But my everyday life has changed completely, making returning to a somewhat normal world feels impossible.

We’ve been told many benefits will continue even when shielding is paused, but I think a lot of support has been lost. For example, many support groups have been paused due to the virus and a lot of public transport isn’t running at full capacity, making everyday activities hard when shielding ends. Lifting government support for the shielded with no de-conditioning is truly terrifying for me.

I’m thankful for the support the BLF has offered throughout this virus. From their health information to the helpline, it’s a real comfort to know a listening ear is there. Also being part of their HealthUnlocked forum lets me chat to someone whose perhaps in similar circumstances.

Everyday activities are a struggle

Where I live it often feels like we’re forgotten. Unless you’re over 70 it’s been really hard to get any government support. It has felt as if none of the usual community support networks have been available. Throughout lockdown I’ve struggled to get fresh food each week, with supermarket slots filling up and some items being out of stock. The minimum spend for online shopping often causes a problem, if you aren’t looking to buy (or can’t afford to buy) too much. This made me reliant on the government hampers as the only permanent access to food and essentials.

Another issue is that I don’t drive and public transport is too infrequent. Even if I did try to use public transport, the nearest supermarket is 2 bus rides away, so it would be quite a long and tiring journey. I’m currently finding very it hard to walk without feeling breathless and was waiting to join a pulmonary rehab course pre-COVID. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to do this in person. And my husband isn’t able to shop for us either.

In my opinion, I have no option but to continue to shield while the virus is still here. To do otherwise is to put myself in danger of a potentially serious flare-up, at the very least. But without proper support from the government or local services, I feel I am on my own.

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21 July 2020