The Kingsley Clinic

Caring for a loved one who has COVID-19

When the COVID-19 pandemic first emerged, initial studies suggested that a single infected person was likely to infect up to two or three others. Now based on updated data, it is estimated that a single infected person will infect up to five or six other people

The virus’s highly contagious nature is concerning, especially for family members caring for a loved one with COVID-19. If a loved one has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is exhibiting symptoms, follow these tips below to protect yourself and others in your home.  

Limit physical contact with others

COVID-19 spreads easily between people who are in close contact. Therefore, limiting contact with someone who is sick is the first step you should take.

The person who is sick should use a separate bedroom and bathroom, if possible. They should eat in their separate space, and others in the home should avoid sharing items like cups, dishes, utensils, electronics, towels, or bedding. If you must share space in your home, make sure common rooms have good ventilation and airflow. Open windows and running fans can help remove respiratory droplets from the air, reducing the possible spread of the virus. 

The CDC recommends home isolation for at least 14 days, until symptoms have resolved, and no fever has been recorded for at least 72 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.  

Connect with loved ones online

It’s important to note that “social distancing” does not equal “social isolation.” While avoiding close physical contact is essential in stopping the spread of the virus, especially if you are sick, that doesn’t mean you must cut off all interaction with other people. Social isolation and loneliness can take a toll on mental health.

Make sure your loved ones who are sick are still able to stay connected with other family members and friends.  Set up frequent meetings with family and friends through Facetime, Skype, or Zoom. Check to see if your loved one’s church is offering virtual services. Hobbies like book clubs, game nights, and even happy hour can be conducted through video chat.  This type of social interaction can boost one’s mood and prevent loneliness, which can also help them feel better as they recover from the virus.

Clean and disinfect frequently

Coronavirus can remain viable on cardboard for about 24 hours, and on plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours. To prevent the virus from spreading through contact with contaminated surfaces within your home, you must clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces every day. 

High-touch surfaces include:

  • Tables
  • Doorknobs
  • Light switches
  • Countertops
  • Handles
  • Desks
  • Electronics
  • Toilets
  • Faucets
  • Sinks 

Wear gloves and make sure the area is properly ventilated before you clean and disinfect. First, clean these areas with soap and water. Then, use disinfecting wipes or sprays to kill germs on these surfaces. Follow manufacturer instructions for cleaning electronics. Alcohol-based wipes are typically safe to use on your devices. 

Use an EPA-approved disinfectant, or you can make your own bleach-based solution at home.

Take extra precautions as a caregiver

If you are caring for someone with COVID-19, it is imperative that you practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based sanitizer if you’re unable to wash your hands.

Wear disposable gloves when handling items that have been used by the person who is sick. Both patient and caregiver should wear face masks to reduce the virus’s transmission further. Wash any clothing, linens, and towels that are used by the sick person separately. Most importantly, avoid touching your face, nose, mouth, or eyes because those are usually the sites of entry for the virus.

Monitor symptoms and stay safe

Keep a log of your loved one’s symptoms, so you can assess if they are getting better or worse. This will also help you know when to go to the emergency room

It’s easy to put your loved one’s needs above your own. However, you must monitor your own health and take care of yourself, too. You can’t help your loved ones recover from the virus if you’re not well yourself. We always remind the caregivers of our patients, “you cannot take care of your loved one if you are not healthy yourself.” 

Dr. Danial Soleja is Chief Medical Officer of The Kingsley Clinic, an online clinic providing telemedicine services using The Lilly Project’s AI technology software.

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