COVID-19: Family, whānau, and āiga carers

Information and advice for carers who support friends, family, whānau and āiga who are unwell or who have a chronic health condition or disability.

Last updated 19 April 2022

On this page:

Helpful information for carers

The information on this page has been brought together to make it easier for carers to find the support and advice they need during the COVID-19 response. The information includes links to useful material available for the general public.

We will update this resource as required and work with other government agencies, Carers NZ and the Carers Alliance, service providers and other partners to keep you informed. Things do change, so please regularly check the following government COVID-19 resource sites:

If you do not have internet access to check on the latest news, please use the radio, TV and toll-free phone numbers such as:

Other useful sources are at the end of this page.

Protecting carers and the people they support

There are several important ways to ensure the safety of carers and the people you support.

Vaccination protects

Vaccination against COVID-19 is very important. A person who is vaccinated, especially following the third (booster) dose, is much less likely to be severely sick, hospitalised or die. Vaccination also protects people against becoming infected and spreading the virus to others. This is important for carers and the people you support.

Find out more about vaccinations.

Vaccine mandates help to provide more protection

Vaccine mandates are in place for health and care workers who work closely with people who are at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19. This is helpful in protecting both carers and the people you support.

Carers who are employed or engaged to provide care and support services in a home or place of residence and are funded by the Ministry of Health, a district health board (DHB), or ACC are required to be vaccinated. While carers who are not paid by these organisations are not required to be vaccinated, vaccination against COVID-19 is still strongly encouraged to protect carers and the people you support.

More information about the vaccination mandate including the exemptions process can be found on the Unite Against COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccinations for Workers page.

Masks help to protect

Wearing face masks helps to reduce infection and spread of COVID-19. You are encouraged to wear a mask whenever you leave your home and are unable to keep a physical distance from others, especially in crowded indoor places.

People can choose to wear a mask whenever they want to increase their safety and confidence. You have the option of wearing a mask when providing care for someone who is vulnerable to COVID-19 to provide additional protection for them.

The Ministry of Health supplies personal protective equipment to publicly funded health and disability support services. To check if you are eligible for supply of PPE such as masks email: [email protected]

People with a disability or physical or mental health condition which makes it difficult to wear a mask or face covering are exempt.

Read more about masks and mask exemptions.

Be prepared and make a plan

Being prepared and making a plan is important if you, the person that you care, or someone in your or their family, whānau, āiga or household gets COVID-19. Planning is important whether you are up-to-date with your COVID-19 vaccinations or not.

You can find out if there is a risk of more severe illness from COVID-19 if you or the people you support have a medical condition or disability. Your GP, primary care and care community hubs will prioritise vulnerable people for initial assessment, any follow-up and how best for carers and the people you support to stay healthy and protected.

In any case, carers and the people you support should continue to confidently use your usual health services such as GPs and hospitals as needed. They will all have safety measures to protect the health of staff and people using the services.

It is also good to have a plan for someone who can take over the carer role or to find respite for your loved one while you are sick.

Read more on Preparing to self-isolate, How to self-manage COVID-19 and on Higher risk people.

Testing and isolating

Please get tested immediately if you or the person you care for has COVID-19 symptoms or are a household contact of someone with COVID-19. If so, families, whānau and āiga will be able to order rapid antigen test (RAT) kits for home testing. The tests will be free and can be requested on behalf of someone else.

Household contacts are generally people who live (permanently or part-time) with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or spent a night in the same place while they were infectious. Find out if you are a household contact or a close contact if someone close to you tests positive for COVID-19 and what you might need to do.

Find out more about accessing, taking and reporting the results of rapid antigen tests (RATs).

The isolation period for people who are household contacts is 7 days, with a test needed on days 3 and 7. Read more on the COVID-19 Health Hub

Testing positive

Most people with COVID-19 who are up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccinations are likely to have a mild to moderate illness and will be fine to recover at home. Support is available for those who need it.

If symptoms continue, get worse or you need urgent medical care, call your local healthcare provider or Healthline on 0800 358 5453. If you or the person you are caring for develops difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, fainting or becomes unconscious, call 111 immediately.

Read more about what to do and what resources are available on the COVID-19 Health Hub

This helpful video that shows how to reduce the spread of infection in your home when a household member tests positive.

How to reduce the spread of infection in your home – Health Navigator

Tips to stay safe and keep others safe

Many people who are cared for by a loved one can be vulnerable to COVID-19. The following are helpful tips for managing COVID-19 for your household and any visitors but also if you are planning to visit other people who are vulnerable:

  • keep a safe distance from people you do not live with — except for the person you care for or support workers helping the person you provide care for.
  • let in fresh air in the spaces you live, provide care, work and gather with others to reduce the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19.
  • wear a face mask and if you have visitors, ask them to wear a face mask.
  • cough into your elbow, wash your hands and clean often-touched surfaces
  • stay at home if you are unwell and get tested if you have symptoms — even if they are mild.
  • if you test positive for COVID-19, or are a household or close contact, or are unwell, isolate from friends or family, whānau and āiga until better and test negative.
  • with events, if you feel more comfortable participating from home, you could ask the organisers for a livestream option.
  • offer to drop off groceries or essential supplies.
  • keep in touch and check on their physical and mental wellbeing.
  • stay connected with people using the phone or the internet, or by meeting up in a COVID-safe way such as outdoors, with physical distancing, and/or wearing face masks.

Read more on protecting yourself and others

Support for carers

Taking a break

Respite or 'taking a break' is very important to support family, whānau and āiga carers’ mental and physical health and wellbeing. Carers are encouraged to use their respite and carers support allocations where possible during the COVID-19 response.

Respite supports or services are allocated by Needs Assessment and Service Coordination agencies (NASCs) and are funded by the Ministry of Health (for disability support needs) and district health boards (DHBs) (for aged care, mental health and addiction, long-term chronic health and palliative care needs).

If you are concerned about your wellbeing or the wellbeing of your family, whānau or āiga, and/or feel desperate for support you should talk to your NASC immediately. Emergency or urgent respite may be available. You should make your concerns clear when you talk to your NASC.

For a list of all NASC organisations, visit the Needs Assessment and Service Coordination Association website (nznasca.co.nz).

Visit the Carers NZ website to download a free copy of the Time Out Guide, a guide to help carers plan and organise respite breaks. The Carers NZ site also includes other respite planning strategies and tools you may find helpful.

Respite supports and services when caring for a person with a disability

Read about Respite supports and services when caring for a person with a disability.

This includes Carer Support which provides reimbursement of some of the costs of using a support person to care and support a disabled person so that their carer can take some time out.

Read more about Carer Support and disabled people.

Carer wellbeing

When you are caring for someone, you also need to take care of yourself. A free national mental health and addiction support service is available 24/7 – call or text 1737. More on mental health and wellbeing support is available through COVID-19: Mental health and wellbeing resources

Advice for key groups requiring care

More information for carers for different groups needing care:

Other useful tools for carers

Carers NZ’s Emergency Care Planning Tool. This helps to bring together key information on your role as a carer and for someone to step in if you’re unable to care. You can access it at Carers NZ

My Health Passport. A health passport is a booklet you can use when visiting hospitals or health and disability services. It records key information about the person you are caring for, to help health professionals support them. You can also have your own passport. You can create a passport through this link My Health Passport, or by visiting hdc.org.nz, or by calling the Health and Disability Commission on 0800 11 22 33.\

Other useful links for carers

Here are other useful links to information and supports:

 
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