COVID-19 – self-isolating if you are older or have a disability

You might have questions about how to self-isolate as an older person or if you have a disability. Here is some information to help you through this time. Click on the green words in the paragraphs to read more.

On this page, you can find the following information:

The information on this page is intended for people who are older and/or have a disability meaning that they are at greater risk of being unwell with COVID-19 and need to take extra precautions and monitor themselves carefully. The term ‘disability’ covers people in diverse circumstances including those with physical or intellectual impairment and those who are at greater risk due to having multiple and/or severe long-term conditions.

You can watch the video below. 


(Health Navigator NZ, in partnership with Ministry of Health, 2022)

There is information on other pages for people who are self-isolating while they are pregnant or who have a health condition that weakens their immune system.

How can I keep myself and others safe?

If somebody else in your household/whare has COVID-19 you need to be careful to keep your distance from them to reduce the risk of you catching it too. If you are older or have a disability you may have more severe symptoms so it is best to avoid it if you can.

The person with COVID-19 should do the following:

  • Only use their own sheets and towels and cutlery, cups and plates
  • Stay in their own room if possible
  • Sleep alone if possible
  • Wear a mask when sharing a room with somebody else or when moving around the house
  • Wash down kitchen and bathroom surfaces with disinfectant after they have used them
  • Open windows to ventilate the house.

Read more about how to stop the spread of COVID-19.

If you are getting home help, it’s important to let them know before they visit your home that you have tested positive for COVID-19. The people coming in will be wearing protective clothing and will be very careful about hygiene – hand washing, opening a window for ventilation, and wearing masks and gloves.

How do I get basic supplies and support?

You will need to stay at home so make sure you can get all the supplies that you need while you self-isolate. This includes medicines, food and information.

Medicines

If you need medication contact your doctor or local community pharmacist and they will arrange for medicines to be delivered to your home. It's important to keep taking all the medicines you have been prescribed and stick to your health plan.

Food

Countdown offers a priority service for people aged over 70 years, and for people with disabilities. This means that you can get your groceries delivered more quickly. If you are already registered for home delivery with your supermarket you can order supplies online and get them delivered to your home. If you have a disability and you are not already registered, you can email the Disabled Persons Assembly (info@dpa.org.nz) who can give members a code to use for the Priority Assist application. 

If your supermarket is unable to do home deliveries you may be able to register for click and collect so you can order your groceries online but will need a friend (or whānau member outside your household) to collect them for you. 

Information

The Ministry of Health has set up a health hub providing information on what to do if you test positive for COVID-19 or if you are a household or close contact.  Other resources can be found on the Health Navigator site – see the learn more section below and the printable resources at the side of the page.

Home care 

Many older people and people with disabilities are getting regular support with household tasks and personal care. As long as they are really needed, these supports will still be available if there is COVID-19 in your house.  

Welfare support

If you need welfare support there is a place on the online contact tracing form where you can ask for it, or you can call the COVID-19 welfare line 0800 512 337.

What will happen if I test positive?

If you had a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test you will be contacted with the result of your test, generally within 48 hours. If it was a supervised rapid antigen test (RAT) you will find out the results at the time of the test, it takes 10–20 minutes to get a result. If you did a RAT without support from a healthcare provider, you need to upload your result (even if it's negative) to My Covid Record. in order to get the support you need. If you are having trouble using My Covid Record, you can report the results of your RAT over the phone by calling  0800 222 478 and choose option 3. 

Contact tracing throughout the current COVID-19 response has been used until recently in March, 2022. People will no longer be required to scan everywhere they go and businesses are no longer required to provide scan in signs or materials. Contact tracing may be used again in the future if a new variant of COVID-19 emerges that evades vaccines or is more severe.

You should be contacted by a healthcare provider after you test positive for COVID-19. You will be asked about your situation, where it is best for you to isolate and what support you need. Each region of Aotearoa New Zealand has set up a contact hub to make sure people get the contact and ongoing support they need.

If you are getting household help for personal care or tasks around the house it is important that you let the agency know that you have COVID-19 as they will need to make plans for how to continue to support you. 

Managing symptoms and getting medical help

People with COVID-19 are experiencing a range of different symptoms and different levels of severity. Most people are managing their symptoms at home and it is important to keep an eye on them, and get help straight away if they get worse. Symptoms tend to show 2–5 days after a person has been infected with COVID-19, but it can take up to 14 days.

The main symptoms include:

  • a fever (high temperature)
  • sore throat
  • runny nose
  • cough
  • aches and pains
  • breathing problems
  • upset stomach/puku possibly with diarrhoea (runny poo)
  • nausea and vomiting (being sick).

If somebody in your household has COVID watch out for these symptoms in yourself as they might mean you have it too. Older people and people with certain health conditions that can weaken their immune systems (eg, asthma, COPD, diabetes, heart conditions) and disabilities may become more unwell than others with COVID.

If you have COVID yourself, you can read more about how to manage your symptoms and positions to help with breathing.  You can also find a symptom diary to help you record your symptoms. It is advised that you do this 3 times a day so that you can see if they are getting worse. 

If you or the person you are caring for has difficulty breathing, severe chest paint, fainting or becomes unconscious, call 111 immediately. 

If at any point you are worried about symptoms, don't hesitate to call your local doctor first for advice, or Healthline on 0800 358 5453. They may be able to help you over the phone, or can advise you on what to do. Your doctor may offer you  a telehealth appointment (read more about telehealth) or may arrange for you to be seen in person.

If you have problems remembering things, ask them to print out information for you or to write things down so you can refer back to it. 

Watch the video below on symptoms and when to get help.

(Health Navigator NZ, in partnership with Northland DHB & Ministry of Health, 2022)

Types of COVID-19 tests

There are 2 types of free COVID-19 tests available to the general public in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Rapid antigen tests (RATs) are the most common method being used now for people with COVID-19 symptoms or for Household Contacts. Results take about 15–20 minutes.

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are still being used in some situations. Results take 25 days.

How do I get another COVID-19 test?

If you have tested positive for COVID you will need to have at least 1 more test. Testing can now be done at home with a rapid antigen test (RAT). If you are required to have a test, your community provider will be able to supply one and help you to do it – this is called a supervised RAT. A list of community providers is being developed by the Ministry of Health.

Accessing a RAT

Getting tested for COVID-19 is free. If you develop COVID-19 symptoms or become a household contact of a case, RATs tests are available for you. These can be picked up from a collection site near you or someone can collect these on your behalf.

Click here to request a RAT.     

To make a request through the website, you will need to have access to a mobile phone to validate the order. RATs can be requested on behalf of someone else.

Requesting RATs on the RAT Requester site is an easy step-by-step process, just follow the instructions. Alternatively you can phone 0800 222 478 and choose option 3.

If you are eligible for RATs you will be issued an order number. You can then pick up your RAT order from a collection site or have someone collect your order for you (make sure they have your order number).

Click here to find a RAT collection site.

What other supports are available because I am older or have a disability?

Internet access

If you do not have access to the internet because of the cost, as a senior (older person) or a person with a disability you can get subsidized broadband through Skinny Jump. They provide flexible pre-paid broadband, with 30GB data for $5 with no contracts or credit checks required. A modem is provided free. It's not available in all parts of Aotearoa New Zealand so check with them to see if you are eligible. 

Having access to the internet will mean that you can use the telehealth services your doctor can offer you, and you can access a large range of information. It will also help you to stay in touch with loved ones while you are isolating at home. 

Extra help

  • If you have problems in communicating with others because you are deaf, hearing impaired, deafblind or speech impaired, New Zealand Relay Services can help. 
  • Work and Income have forms you can fill in if you need extra help while you and your whānau are self-isolating. They can assist with extra finances for essential items (food, medical costs, power bills), deliveries of things you need and help form community, iwi or Pacific groups to get things done.

Learn more

Easy to read information about COVID-19 People First NZ
A range of resources and sign language videos are available at Deaf Aotearoa. Topics include COVID-19 variants and how to use a rapid antigen test (RAT). 

Health advice and vaccine information is available from Unite Against COVID-19 in different languages, including sign language, braille and as large print and audio and easy read versions. 

References

Help when you are self-isolating Unite Against COVID-19, NZ, 2022
Support and information for disabled people Unite Against COVID-19, NZ, 2022
Rapid antigen testing Ministry of Health, NZ, 2022

Reviewed by

 
Elizabeth Bromley is a Registered Nurse, Nutritionist and Medical Herbalist who works privately for Hekate and publicly for the Southern DHB. Her clinical focus areas include immunisation, mental and reproductive health, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome and fertility.
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Elizabeth Bromley, RN, Nutritionist and Medical Herbalist, Otago. Last reviewed: 25 Mar 2022