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Are bubbles a response to Covid-19?

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Yesterday I was gardening in front of my house. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed an older man walking on the pavement opposite.  Not a neighbour, I thought, it must be someone out for their daily exercise. When he passed a second time, on the same side of the street as me, I looked up and recognised the man as one of the regular attenders at the Memory Café where I volunteer. He was lost and likely to be at risk.  My partner got him a chair and a glass of water, while I looked up his home phone number.  When I reached his wife she was about to phone the police, since he had been missing for an hour. He was two miles from home, and it was sheer coincidence that I saw him. 

For seven weeks, this fit and active gentleman and his wife have been observing the lockdown restrictions. He needs constant surveillance. Although they go for walks, his energy is limitless. The day centres he used to attend are shut, so is the Memory Café.  Before lockdown, this carer could rely on this weekly social event with other carers and on day care for two days a week. At present phone calls are the only substitute since this couple do not use the Internet.  They and people in similar situations need practical, personalised help. 

I think that people with dementia living in the community with carers need a step down from the present restrictions, but it has to take account of the real risks of Covid-19. For such households, it may be worth a small risk of contagion to try to prevent the bigger risk that strict lockdown presents to mental health.  One approach is to limit the number of people outside the household who have contact with people who are at risk.  This small group forms a bubble of mutual support.  Ideally, each bubble is sealed, and the membership of a bubble could be restricted to people who are almost certain to be virus-free.  Now, for example, after seven weeks of isolation, there is no reason why self-isolating people should not visit other self-isolating people, if they can get to them without taking public transport.  I’ve noticed one elderly neighbour who lives alone is already doing this, popping into the home of her 92 year-old friend who also lives alone.  It’s time to bring some common sense to how we live with the risks of Covid-19, and bubbles seem to be a practical next step. 

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