By now, we all understand the risk of contracting COVID-19. The virus spreads easily, especially among big groups of people, and can be extremely dangerous to some. Those most at risk include the elderly and people with underlying health conditions—two groups who often rely on at-home caregivers to help with daily tasks. As the pandemic continues to affect people across the nation, it’s crucial that caregivers understand how to protect both their patients and themselves from spreading the virus.
How to care for COVID-19 patients at home
Many people who become sick with COVID-19 will only experience mild symptoms. That being said, closing monitoring your health each day is very important. If a person is experiencing a mild case of the virus, the best thing you can do for them is make sure they drink lots of fluids, get sufficient rest, and take any medications that may help ease pain and other symptoms. Even a mild case of the Novel Coronavirus can become serious, though, so it’s important to watch for any worsening symptoms. If you or the person you’re caring for is sick, watch for emergency signs including trouble breathing, chest pain, confusion, bluish lips or face, and extreme fatigue.
If you’re the caregiver of a COVID-19 patient, it’s important to understand how to take care of and protect yourself, too. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends taking these actions to protect yourself and limit the risk of spread:
Wash your hands frequently. Wash your hands as regularly as possible with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially if you’re around a sick person. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Additionally, keep your hands away from your face as much as possible.
Clean your home daily. Use disinfectants including sprays and wipes to clean surfaces, doorknobs and handles, and anything else that’s frequently touched. Avoid cleaning the area the sick patient has been spending time in, and instead, set aside separate cleaning supplies for them to use.
Wear a face mask during close contact. If you need to be in the same room or small area as the patient, make sure to wear a face mask. If possible, have the person who is sick wear a face mask, as well. Be careful not to touch the mask while in close contact, and make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after leaving the area.
Handle laundry carefully. If you’re responsible for doing a sick person’s laundry, it’s best to wear gloves and a mask while handling the dirty clothes. Try not to shake the clothing, and keep it away from your own body. Wash the clothing on the hottest setting available and dry thoroughly. When you’re finished doing all the laundry, disinfect your hampers and laundry baskets.
Avoid having visitors inside the home. Keep any unnecessary visitors from entering the person’s home until they have recovered and are free of COVID-19 symptoms.
How to prevent the spread of COVID-19 if you’re sick
We’re all doing our best to stop the spread of the Coronavirus every day, but unfortunately, it’s still very contagious and spreading rapidly. If you become infected with COVID-19, it’s important to take proper precautions to ensure you don’t get anyone else around you sick. Follow these steps to keep others healthy:
Stay home as much as possible. Don’t go to work, school, or any other public space if you can avoid it.
Frequently wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
If you don’t live alone, try to stay isolated in one room or general area of the house. If you can, use your own bathroom, and wear a mask in shared spaces like kitchens. Keep any shared spaces well ventilated.
Frequently clean your house, especially regularly touched objects like doorknobs, light switches, and counters.
Avoid sharing common household items such as dishes, bedding, towels, and electronics.
Wear a face mask when you’re around others. Even if you’re able to distance yourself, a face mask is still a good idea.
Dealing with the emotional toll of caregiving
This is a stressful time for everyone. This is especially true for caregivers, who see the impacts of the virus up close. The more time you spend caring for a sick person, the more it may affect your emotional and mental well being. Fear of their health and your own is a natural response to the situation. To cope with these hard times and the stress that comes with caring for someone who is sick, consider these options to give yourself a break and put your mind at ease:
Take breaks from COVID-19 news. Stay off social media and avoid mindless scrolling, which often leads to added stress.
Maintain a regular daily routine as usual. Wake up early, shower, and do any chores and daily tasks as you usually would.
Maintain a well-balanced diet. Eat healthy meals and get frequent exercise—even a 15 minute walk every day will do wonders for your mental and physical health.
Get good sleep. Try to avoid screens 30 minutes to an hour before you go to sleep to rest your mind.
Avoid drugs, alcohol, and anything that inhibits your ability to think clearly.
Stay in contact with your family, friends, and loved ones. Talk about things that make you happy.
Caregivers are vital to many elderly and disabled people’s health. Even during a global pandemic, caregivers continue to help those who need them. But this can affect their mental and physical well-being, too, so it’s important to take the necessary steps to keep themselves healthy. Things aren’t easy right now, but if we all do our best to protect one another from the spread of COVID-19, we’ll have better days ahead together.