If someone in your home has COVID-19, you may have questions about how to keep the rest of the household healthy. Caring for a sick family member while trying to provide support for everyone else can be challenging and overwhelming. Memorial Hermann is here to provide the information you need to make the best choices for your household.
While someone in your home is sick, you can take steps to help the others stay healthy. By maintaining effective isolation techniques, and cleaning and disinfecting your home, you are doing your part to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Here are some effective ways to navigate the difficult task of managing your household when someone has COVID-19.
It is essential to keep the sick family member properly isolated. Choose a room in your house that you can designate as the “sick room.” Ideally, choose both a bedroom and a bathroom to be used only by the sick household member. Be sure that healthy family members stay out of the sick room and bathroom.
Wear a mask
The sick family member should wear a facemask at all times. Clean, disposable face masks will help prevent spreading COVID-19 to the rest of the family. If you do not have access to disposable facemasks, you can make your own mask, using cloth materials like a scarf or bandana. Click here for a video from the CDC and the Surgeon General that will walk you through the steps of making a mask at home.
Practice everyday healthy habits
Washing your hands is one of the best ways to prevent spreading the virus. Each person in the home should regularly wash their hands with soap and water.
Also, be sure that everyone, both sick and healthy, covers their coughs and sneezes. Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose, and then throw the tissue in the trash can and wash your hands. Remind family members to avoid touching their face, including their eyes, with unwashed hands.
Do not share household items
The sick household member should not use the same personal items as others in the home. A separate set of things like towels, bedding, eating utensils and dishes should be reserved for people who are sick. After using these items, be sure to wash them with soap and water, or use the dishwasher or washing machine.
Although there are currently no reports of household pets contracting COVID-19, people who are sick should limit contact with animals. Healthy people in the household should care for pets while the sick person recovers, and typical pet interactions, such as petting and snuggling, should be avoided.
Staying healthy while preparing and serving meals starts with regularly cleaning your kitchen. Cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces like kitchen counters, cabinets, utensils and tables is essential to preventing the spread of the virus.
Ideally, bring meals to the sick family member and leave them outside the door of their sick room. If you need to enter the sick room to deliver food, make sure the infected person is wearing a mask.
Keep in mind that COVID-19 patients might not have much of an appetite. They are not restricted to a specific diet, but they may prefer simple foods like soup or crackers.
It is important to clean high-touch surfaces with household disinfectants every day. This includes phones, countertops, doorknobs, bathroom surfaces, keyboards and remote controls.
Healthy people in your household should avoid cleaning the sick room and bathroom, because it will put them at an increased risk for contracting COVID-19. If the sick family member is unable to clean their own isolation spaces, a caregiver can clean for them, but should wear a mask and limit how often they enter the sick areas.
Dealing with the pandemic can be very stressful for both adults and children. Young children may respond differently than adults, and many need extra reassurance that everything will be OK. Use your time at home to talk to your children about COVID-19 and let them ask questions.
Depending on your child’s age level, they may already know about COVID-19. Asking questions like ‘what have you heard about coronavirus?,’ and ‘what questions do you have’ may be appropriate for older children, while questions such as ‘do you understand why we have to stay home?’ might be better suited for younger children.
Offering honesty and comfort are key during this time. Focus on helping your child feel safe, but be truthful about what’s going on. If they have questions about why their schools are closed or they can’t go out to eat, be honest. But if they seem uninterested, there’s no need to raise it. Helping your child feel in control is also helpful. Teaching them methods of staying safe and offering ways they can help keep others safe or offer reassurance to their friends and family members may ease stress.
Young children may not be able to verbalize how they are feeling, so it is important to watch for signs of stress. Some things to look for are excessive worrying or crying, and difficulty sleeping. It may be helpful to reduce the amount of time children spend watching news reports on television or online. They may not fully understand the information, which can lead to stress and anxiety.
When dealing with a sick family member in isolation, it is important to remember that you are not alone. Reach out to friends and neighbors, and utilize community services, if you need help.
Consider having meals and groceries delivered so you can stay home. Check with your local grocery store for delivery or curbside options, and remember to thoroughly wash any fruits or vegetables before eating.
During the pandemic, many restaurants are offering delivery services. Do an online search or ask your neighbors which neighborhood restaurants are delivering. For more information on how to safely receive food deliveries, click here.
If your sick family member needs medical attention, Memorial Hermann’s virtual care options are recommended so they can stay at home and avoid spreading the virus. With our virtual-care options, you can conveniently connect with an urgent care provider, from your home, 24 hours/day.
Having a sick family member can be stressful, so remember to protect your own emotional wellbeing. Take breaks from watching the news and reading social media posts, and be sure to get plenty of sleep. Also try to eat well, exercise and practice mindfulness. Don’t hesitate to reach out to friends and neighbors, and keep up social interaction through phone calls and texts.
The information in this article was accurate as of April 17, 2020.