Drafted by the Pirate Care Syllabus crew. Last edit: March 21, 12am CST.

Ovaj dokument dostupan je i na hrvatskom: Kako pomoći ljudima u kućnoj izolaciji

Questo documento ha una versione in italiano: Come assistere le persone nell'isolamento domestico

Dieses Dokument existiert auch in einer deutschen Version: Wie kann man Menschen während der Hausisolation unterstützen

Hay una versión de este documento en español: Cómo asistir a personas aisladas en sus hogares

Rationale for organising assistance

The most significant thing people can do to reduce the virus spread and the mortality is to practice avoid close contact (2 meters distance in closed spaces, 1 meter in open air), working from home and home isolation. People belonging to at-risk groups (over 60 years of age and/or suffering from chronic conditions such as cardiovascular and heart diseases, high or low blood pressure, diabetes, lung or immune system diseases), should not leave their home. People who have recently travelled, or people who have onset symptoms, and are advised or ordered to go into isolation, have to stay at home and avoid contact with others. In many places, as lock-down measures are introduced, everyone else, who doesn’t have a duty to go to work, should remain at home and leave only to do necessary purchases. Thereby we lower the risk of further significant spread.

The home isolation, however, creates significant obstacles to securing the regular provision of food, medicines, toiletries and other consumables, as well as obstacles to attending to routine tasks such as taking out the rubbish or collecting mail. Isolation implies a radical workaround of how those who are in isolation organise their daily lives. And the conditions of isolation might lead to disorientation, lack of social contact, and emotional difficulties.

If you are not in an at-risk group and wish to organise as a group or as an individual to assist your family members, friends, neighbours or strangers, here are the things you can take into consideration to build different scenarios how to assist them in their needs during home isolation:

Let them know you are ready to assist

You can let them know that you can provide assistance by posting a note in the building entrance, leaving a note under or next to their door, or ringing them up. You can also publicise it on social media or on a webpage, but assume that older people might not be Internet-savvy, so rely on paper and phone. Leave a phone number as a contact and basic information about yourself or your group to establish initial trust. Let them know in your note that if they themselves might not need assistance that they can inform their friends and family who might need assistance that you are offering help.

Your initial note can be very simple, for example:

Dear neighbours,

if you need assistance with getting your food and medical provisions, collecting mail or taking out your dog for a walk please give us a call at

[your phone number here]

and we’ll do those errands for you, taking necessary measures to precaution not to expose you to the contaigon.

Stay at home and stay healthy, please do not hesitate to contact us, we’re here to help,

[Describe shortly who you are and your name, e.g. “Neighbour from the ground floor”, “Neighbourhood mutual aid group”]

What to consider when arranging assistance

When arranging assistance make sure to:

  • Go with the person in home isolation through guidelines on home isolation, assistance to at risk groups and similar official guidance, e.g. Irish Health Care guideline to establish what they need to do to organise their daily life during a prolonged home isolation and what they need to organise it in that way?
  • What provisions do they need? Can you order that online and have it delivered, or is it better that you deliver the provisions yourself?
  • Do they have the medicines they need? Do they need a prescription? Can you pick up their medication from the pharmacy? Do they have masks, soap and desinfectants? Do they have a thermometer and fever and cough medicine?
  • Can they prepare a meal or do they need help? Can you make them a meal? Or instead arrange to have food delivered to them from a soup or solidarity kitchen?
  • Do they need to have their rubbish put out or mail collected?
  • Do they have a house pet? Does it need to be walked?
  • Do they have money? Do they have cash? Can they pay online? Do they have a trusted person who can withdraw cash for them? Do they need financial assistance?
  • To minimise your movement, try to plan and do errands for several days at once.

What to consider when delivering items

When delivering things, consider also the following:

  • Avoid close contact (2 meters in closed space and 1 meter in opern air, and keep the interaction short) to prevent the transmission of the virus by air.
  • It is best to drop things in front of their door for them to collect once you have moved away to the advised distance.
  • They can also do the same with rubbish or anything they have to give to you.
  • If you can’t avoid direct social contact, the person in isolation should wear a mask. First leave them a mask if they don’t have one.
  • Carefully handle the items in order to avoid transmission of the virus via surfaces. Use disposable gloves to handle items you will deliver and things you are taking over.

What to consider if you live with the person in home isolation

Persons who are in isolation, either because they might be or are infected, or because they belong to one of the at-risk groups, frequently will live in a shared household with other people. For those who are older, seriously ill, infirm or disabled who depend on the assistance of others, yet live in locations and situations where such assistance cannot be provided by qualified institutions and trained carers, the advised social distancing and isolation might not be easily implementable, and direct contact will be necessary. If you have a person in isolation in your home or are a live-in carer, consider the advice for carers for children or someone else in self-isolation in the following guideline.

In short:

  • If possible, the person in isolation should use a separate room. Regularly ventilate and disinfect the room.
  • If possible, that person should use a separate toilet and bathroom. Otherwise, toilet and bathroom have to be disinfected after use.
  • That person should be isolated from other persons in the household who belong to one of the at-risk groups.
  • If that person needs the care of other persons, reduce the number of carers. If the person is infected, make sure that the carers don’t belong to one of the at-risk groups.
  • Carers should maintain the distance (two meters) if you’re not providing direct support, use the mask for as long as they are in the same room, and wash their hands before and after contact.
  • Desinfect the surfaces, separate out their rubbish, particularly tissues and other contaminated items. Keep the contaminated rubbish firmly tied up in a plastic bag in the room with the person in isolation and take it to the bin separately just before the regular collection.
  • Use separate cuttlery and dishes, wash and disinfect after use.
  • Wash separately, regularly and at high temperature bedding, towls and clothes.

Maintain regular contact and provide emotional support

Check-in with them on a regular basis. Listen. Engage. Consider the following:

  • Do they have everything they need? Are they feeling well? Do they need medical assistance?
  • As people stay in social isolation, they might be missing contact and emotional support, be ready to spend time talking with them and understanding how they are feeling and coping.
  • If you think they are not emotionally well, have a psychological help hotline at hand and advise them to seek consultation.
  • If you desire to get informed on how to provide autonomous psychological support, consider looking at the topic Psycho-social autonomy in our Pirate Care Syllabus.

Further reading / resources

Examples of communities organising assistance

Neighbours helping neighbours in home isolation in Vienna1

Barcelona neighbourhood Gràcia mutual support call on Telegram2

Solidarity Brigate to face the emergency in Milan3

Facebook group to assist people in Zagreb and beyond

COVID-19 UK Mutual Aid groups: a list by Freedom News

Queer Relief Covid-19 Berlin - Getting Help


  1. The note says: Dear neighbours! - If you are over 65 years of age or have an immune disease, i.e. weakened immune system, we (Fredi and Andi - Door 12) want to support you so you can stay healthy. / We don’t belong to an at-risk group and we can land you a helping hand. If you have errands to be done (shopping and other activities in public), we are glad to be able to help. You can simply leave us a note on our door, in our mailbox or simply call at +43… Together Vienna will make it through the pandemic <3. / Kind regards, Fredi and Andi ↩︎

  2. Translation by Bue Rübner Hansen: ORGANIZE SOLIDARITY IN YOUR BUILDINGS AND STREETS - What can you do?: 1⃣ Organize yourselves in groups in your building or along your section of the street to identify the people who need support and help with things such: grocery shopping, childcare, etc.; 2⃣ In order to organize yourself, you can: convene meetings of stairscases or street sections, visit all floors in your building to know the situation in each flat, install an information board at your entrance.; 3⃣ It is important to let everyone know that they are not alone, that they can count on the help of the neighborhood.; 4⃣ Generate communication channels between everyone in the building or street section. Both digital (via mobile phone) and physical (a sign at the entrance can be enabled to keep everyone informed and share needs); 5⃣ All of this should be done following the health care tips to avoid spreading the infection. ↩︎

  3. The note says: We fight fear together to defeat the virus. This initiative was created to address the risk of the collapse of the national health system during the Covid-19 emergency. To participate send a mail to: ↩︎