Helpful information for carers
17 November 2021: The health and disability workforce is currently under pressure due to the mandated vaccination order. Providers may have to reduce household management services and client visits to enable them to focus support to those most in need. If you receive home and community support services and are concerned about what this might mean, please communicate with your provider about your needs over the next few months.
See the Ministry of Health’s full advisory on Homes and Community Support Services.
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:
- Ministry of Health – COVID-19 - health.govt.nz
- Unite against COVID-19 - covid19.govt.nz
- Unite against COVID-19 – support and information for disabled people
- Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People
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:
- Carers NZ 0800 777 797
- Healthline COVID-19 enquiries 0800 358 5453 anytime
- COVID welfare line 0800 512 337 (8am to 5pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 1pm on a Saturday).
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.
Vaccine mandates for health and care workers have ended. However, some employers may still require workers to be vaccinated due to their responsibilities under health and safety legislation.
Carers and support workers who are employed or engaged to carry out work that includes going to the home or place of residence of another person to provide care and support services funded by a Te Whatu Ora district must meet the contractual and vaccination requirements as outlined in the relevant district where applicable.
While carers who are paid to provide support in their own home are not required to be vaccinated, vaccination against COVID-19 is still strongly encouraged to protect carers and the people they support.
Masks help to protect
Wearing face masks helps to reduce infection and spread of COVID-19. Masks are required when visiting healthcare settings and strongly encouraged in some situations, such as 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.
Because face masks are an effective tool for reducing the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses, face masks will continue to be supplied to vulnerable people for free.
Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand 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 COVID.HealthSupplyChain@health.govt.nz
Both medical masks and P2/N95 particulate respirator masks are available, with P2/N95 masks are prioritised for people at highest risk from getting very sick from COVID-19.
Free masks are available through participating healthcare providers, community organisations and when people collect rapid antigen tests (RATs) from some collection sites. Find sites that provide masks on Healthpoint
People with a disability or physical or mental health condition which makes it difficult to wear a mask or face covering are exempt.
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 on 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.
Medicines for treating COVID-19
COVID-19 medicines can be prescribed to reduce the severity of illness and help reduce the risk of hospitalisation for those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. These medicines need to be taken within five days of a person first developing symptoms for COVID-19.
Older people, Māori and Pacific people, and people with complex health needs are more at risk of becoming seriously unwell with COVID-19. The eligibility criteria have been widened, meaning more people are eligible for these medicines.
If you test positive for COVID-19 talk to your GP, community pharmacy, or health care provider as soon as possible. They will advise if COVID-19 medicines are suitable for you.
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.
Find out more about accessing, taking and reporting the results of rapid antigen tests (RATs).
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. Household contacts do not need to isolate but they are recommended to test daily for 5 days and to wear a mask when leaving home.
People who test positive must isolate for 7 days. Day 0 is the day your symptoms started or when you tested positive, whichever comes first.
It is important to fill out the health questions in the self-assessment form you get when you get COVID-19. If you can't use the online form or would prefer not to, call 0800 555 278 for assistance to complete the form.
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.
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 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.
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.
Respite supports or services are allocated by Needs Assessment and Service Coordination agencies (NASCs) and are funded by Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People (for disability support needs) and Te Whatu Ora districts (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
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.
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
Useful tools and links 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.
Useful links for carers
Here are other useful links to information and supports:
- Unite against COVID-19 – the main site to help New Zealanders navigate through COVID-19
- Unite against COVID-19 – support and information for disabled people
- Ministry of Health COVID-19 information - the latest updates, information and advice on COVID-19
- Ministry of Social Development: COVID-19 Welfare and social sector support for family, whānau, and āiga carers
- COVID welfare line 0800 512 337 (8am to 5pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 1pm on a Saturday)
- Work and Income supports for people affected by COVID-19
- COVID-19 and the workplace - Employment New Zealand
- Work + Care: Information for Carers – Carers NZ
- Carers NZ
- Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People