Things to Do If You're Taking Care for Someone with COVID
If someone you live with has COVID or suspects they have COVID, help them recover, and minimize the spread of the virus by following these tips.
1. Pick a "sick room."
Isolate the sick person in a room with a door. They should only come out to use the bathroom. Do not allow anyone else into that room unless it is to care for the sick person briefly.
Keep children and pets out of the room as well. Allow fresh air to circulate into the room by keeping a window open, weather permitting.
If you live in a one-bedroom home, allow the sick person to stay in the bedroom. You should sleep on the couch or an inflatable mattress to allow you continued to access the kitchen and living room while they remain in isolation.
2. Pick a "sick bathroom."
In an ideal situation, your home will have more than one bathroom so that you can designate one as the "sick bathroom." No one but the sick person should enter this bathroom.
Stock it with plenty of toilet paper, towels, soap, and shampoo beforehand. If you have to share a bathroom with the sick person, immediately clean every surface after using it.
3. Help them track their symptoms.
COVID-19 symptoms can quickly go from mild to severe. The sick person may be too exhausted to realize how serious their symptoms are or ask for help.
You should help track their symptoms, especially their temperature. Keep a thermometer in their room. Knock on the door to remind them to take their temperature, or call them on their phone. Write down the results. Ask them also to tell you about any new symptoms as soon as they occur.
4. Help them stay hydrated.
The body needs plenty of water to function, especially when fighting a virus. Feeling sleepy and unwell can make it easy to forget to drink water throughout the day.
Talk to the sick person throughout the day and remind them to take small sips of water. You can reduce the sick person's need to leave the room to get more water by purchasing bottled water and leaving it outside the door to the sick room.
Clear liquids are best. The sick person should not drink alcohol or caffeine.
5. Ease their symptoms.
Call a doctor or pharmacist about what over-the-counter medications are safe to take, in what dosages, and how often. Understand the dangers of taking more than the recommended dose of acetaminophen (which is found in multiple products like Tylenol or DayQuil) and drinking alcohol with medicine.
Help the sick person keep track of what medicine they've taken and when to avoid any overdoses. Consider restricting their access to medication if you aren't confident they can make these judgment calls while sick and "out of it." They should continue taking any regular prescription medications unless their doctor has advised them to stop.
Provide hot tea and cough drops to soothe a sore throat. Avoid using heating pads on sore muscles unless the sick person has no fever. Try cooling liniments instead. A product like Vick's Vapor Rub can help with congestion, as can nasal sprays and an air humidifier.
Encourage the sick person to sit up straight periodically to open up the lungs. Consult a doctor or pharmacist for other suggestions for easing symptoms. Develop a game plan for what to do if symptoms worsen.
6. Keep them comfortable and entertained from a distance.
COVID can make people feel exhausted, but there will be periods of time when they are bored and lonely. Ensure they have access to entertainment, whether through a TV, video games, puzzle books, novels, coloring books, phone calls with friends, etc. Ensure they have a phone charger and that it's close to their bed. You can even play games together in real-time online or on mobile apps to ease any feelings of loneliness.
Keep the house quiet throughout the day so they can sleep at any time. Provide plenty of blankets and pillows for the sick person to arrange comfortably. Consider supplying a box fan if they feel too hot in their room.
7. Bring them food, but keep your distance.
The sick person will need plenty of nutritious food to help their body stay as strong as possible. If they have diarrhea, stick to classics that are easy to digest, like chicken noodle soup, apple slices, bananas, white rice, and toast. If there are no gastrointestinal symptoms, some spices can double as expectorants that help induce coughing to bring up phlegm from the lungs.
If the sick person can get out of bed, deliver fresh food on a tray or cookie sheet outside the sick person's door. They can open the door to collect the food after you've walked away.
If they are bed-bound, wear a mask that covers your face and nose before entering the room. Ask the sick person to cover their nose and mouth as well. Set the food on the bedside table and collect old dishes before leaving the room.
Immediately wash the old dishes in hot water and plenty of soap. You can then dip them in a bleach solution as an extra precaution. Do not touch your face until this process is complete and you have thoroughly washed your hands one more time.
8. Keep their laundry separate.
When initially making preparations for the "sick room," remove your clothes if necessary. Place plenty of clean, comfy clothes in the room for them to wear. Give them a hamper or bag for dirty laundry. When it's full, they should place it just outside the door. Wear your mask and gloves when handling the laundry hamper and clothes. Wash everything -- including towels and bedding -- in a separate load away from everyone else's. Run the cycle with hot water. Place the hamper back outside their door right away, or immediately wash it with hot water and soap.
9. Clean, clean, clean.
Before the sick person was officially isolated in the sick room, they probably touched numerous surfaces around the home and left a trail of COVID pathogens. Use a disinfectant spray to clean absolutely everything: doorknobs, keyboards, counters, stair railings, fridge handles, sink faucets, toilet flush, light switches, remote controls, chair backs, cabinet fronts, and even walls.
10. Say no to visitors.
Social distancing guidelines recommend restricting visitors even during the best of times, but it's vital to keep everyone away when someone you live with has COVID. Ask well-wishers to drop off cards, flowers, and gifts on the doorstep. When they step back a safe distance (at least 6 feet), you can then pick up the items and disinfect them if possible.
11. Use technology to connect
Encourage friends and family to call, or video chat with the sick person instead of visiting. You should also do the same! As silly as it may feel to video chat with someone sitting in the next room, doing so can combat feelings of loneliness. It will let you look at each other and allow the sick person to see pets and children from a distance. Consider setting up a live stream of your living room or kitchen so that the sick person can check-in at any time and feel like part of the activities.
12. Stay home yourself.
There's a strong possibility that you also have the virus even if you are experiencing no symptoms. You could spread it to others if you continue to go to work, run errands, or socialize as usual. Take advantage of your balcony, yard, or patio to get some outdoor time, but stay at least 6 feet away from anyone who doesn't live with you.
Call your boss to inform them of the situation and to figure out how to proceed. Arrange to have groceries delivered if possible, either by friends and family or by a delivery service. Curbside pickup is another option. If you must go to the store, wear a mask, use hand sanitizer before entering, and try to go at a time when few people are around, such as near closing.
13. Don't be afraid to ask for help or moral support.
Like it or not, you have to take on a lot of responsibility when someone you live with has COVID. Add the fact that COVID can cause life-threatening complications, and it's totally understandable if you feel more anxious than usual.
It's okay to tell people what's going on and to ask for help. Let friends, family, and neighbors know that someone you live with is sick. Allow them to check on you with text messages or phone calls. Tell them what you need, whether it's supplies, a pep talk, or for someone to play virtual games with the sick person to keep their spirits up.
Talking to someone about your fears or worries can really help ease your mind as well. If you're not sure who to talk to, reach out to your Confidant team at any time.
14. Know when it's safe for them to be around others.
As of July 2, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control have stated people with COVID-19 (confirmed or suspected) can safely be around other people once they meet the following criteria:
3 days of no fever without fever-reducing medication, AND
Respiratory symptoms have improved, AND
Symptoms first appeared 10 or more days ago.
The CDC also recommends that people with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 exposure stay home for 14 days immediately after exposure.
15. Conduct a final deep-clean of the sick room.
When the person you live with finally meets that criteria, usher them straight into the shower. Instruct them to spray the shower and bathroom surfaces with disinfectant spray after their shower -- then comes the long-awaited hug.
Now you can both conduct a deep-clean of the sick room. Throw all clothes, blankets, and bedsheets into the laundry. Spray every surface with a disinfectant spray. Open windows to allow fresh air to circulate. Vacuum the floor thoroughly. You should both take another round of showers when you're done.