Stella's Story Caring in the pandemic Loneliness, isolation, and stress too often go hand in hand with caring. Lockdown exacerbated these feelings for many carers. Stella’s story Stella (73) has been shielding her husband Barry for whom she has cared for over 20 years. He suffers from COPD and uses oxygen. Over the past 12 months Barry’s condition has deteriorated considerably and now he is totally reliant on his wife for all his personal care and medication, for dressing himself and for assistance walking even short distances across a room. He is always at risk of falling. Stella has health problems of her own, including needing a knee replacement and the stress of Covid-19 has taken its toll on her physical and emotional wellbeing. Typical of many carers she always puts her husband’s needs first and is reluctant to fuss about herself or burden her children with her worries. During lockdown Stella’s burden of care increased as her regular practical support from external agencies including the NHS, was reduced and restricted. Shielding meant her children were unable to step in to help either. To support carers like Stella through Covid-19 we have adapted our carers assessments to reflect carers’ experiences of the pandemic and the additional pressures they face. Our Covid-19 assessments have allowed us to respond at speed to provide support. During her assessment Stella told CSM that “she kind of manages” to look after Barry, but she was feeling the strain of being alone with her husband for long periods with few distractions. She constantly worries about what would happen to Barry if she fell ill or needed to go into hospital. Even when lockdown eased, Stella continued to feel exhausted and overwhelmed by anxiety and despair. She was particularly fearful about using public transport in case she brought the infection home. Her own car needed a small repair, but Stella had neither the money nor the motivation to fix it. The Covid-19 assessment recognised Stella’s emotional, mental and practical needs and helped her to start feeling in control of her life again. Talking to CSM helped her to see some solutions to the everyday problems that were causing her so much anxiety. We provided Stella with an emergency plan template where she could record all the important information about Barry’s care in one place. With a Carers Discretionary Grant of £100 she was able to get her car repaired. We also made a referral on her behalf to Merton Uplift for counselling sessions. Counselling has helped Stella put things in perspective and taught her not to make unrealistic demands of herself. She is no longer filled with dread at the prospect of tackling everyday tasks. Stella feels she has more control of her life and is more energetic and cheerful as a result. She also feels motivated to take part in CSM’s online workshops and to become more empowered in her caring role. Most importantly, Stella now knows how to manage her feelings of anxiety and what steps she can take to care for herself.