How You Can Help and Remain Safe When a Family Member Has COVID

a man sitting in his bedroom sick with COVID-19 with no family around to help

Mike Bishop sits in his bedroom on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020, in Byram, Miss. In early July, Bishop was hit by COVID-19. Bishop was living alone at home, in a big suburban house. He'd wake up confused at 2 a.m. when Bonnie Bishop, his wife, wasn't beside him. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

By Emiene Wright

December 24, 2020

With COVID-19 cases surging across the country, chances are you might know someone who’s sick with the virus. Protect yourself while offering those close to you some much-needed care and comfort.

The US saw 1,502,350 new coronavirus cases from Dec. 17-24. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the total number of cases is above 18 million and counting. As the pandemic’s holiday surge continues, it’s becoming more and more likely that someone close to you has or might contract COVID-19.

It’s only natural to want to help family and friends stricken with the illness, but self-preservation—and doing your part to control the spread—demands safeguarding your own health. The good news is you can do both.  

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Chances are, the relative or friend is feeling isolated and rather anxious. Their appetite is likely low, either from the loss of taste and smell senses or due to gastrointestinal issues caused by the infection, and they may have developed a fever or wet cough. You can help by checking in, lifting their spirits, and providing support for their basic needs–all from the recommended social distance.

Be Their Personal Assistant

Stacey Rose, a respiratory therapist based in Charlotte, N.C., recommends calling sick friends and family members to keep them on schedule. “If they have a fever, call and make sure they’re taking Tylenol every four hours,” she suggested. Viral infections such as COVID can quickly lead to dehydration, so Rose says to remind loved ones to drink fluids regularly so they stay hydrated. “And eating will help, so push them to eat even something small, like a piece of fruit.”

Take Something Off Their Plate by Feeding Them

Food is often not a top priority for people suffering from a bout with Covid. The CDC has a list of wide-ranging symptoms, including fatigue, loss of taste or smell, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea. They are under quarantine, so going out to the grocery store is not recommended. If they have an appetite, they may be too tired to prepare balanced, healthy meals. You can alleviate this issue by food shopping for them and dropping the groceries off at their door or having a delivery service transport the items. You can also drop off home-made dishes for them. Not only will you help make sure they eat, but you’ll lift their spirits in the process.

Babysit Their Fur Babies

Covid-sick people may be struggling to meet emotional obligations. It may also be difficult for them to isolate themselves from a beloved pet within the household. If they have animals, consider pet-sitting for them. The risk of animal-to-human transmission is deemed to be low, but people can spread it to animals. If you take over the care of a pet, limit their contact with other humans and animals. The CDC says there’s no evidence that pets can transmit COVID-19 via their hair or fur, so do not bathe them or wipe them down their fur with disinfectants, alcohol, or hand sanitizer. Keep cats indoors and walk leashed dogs at least six feet away from others.

Take Care of Their Errands—Safely

When Alison McBride of Stone Ridge, New York, contracted COVID, the single parent still had to take care of her three young sons. Her mother, who lives next door, has a heart condition called atrial fibrillation that makes her extra cautious of contracting the virus. So instead of grocery shopping and then bringing the groceries inside, McBride would order groceries online, and her 74-year-old mother would pick them up and drop them off on the porch. At times, though, she did have to come inside to help.

“Mom got an N-95 mask and wore another mask underneath that the way medical workers do,” McBride said. “Anytime she touched anything of mine, she wore gloves and was very careful to sanitize it.”

And when McBride developed complications and needed to go to the emergency room, her mother suited up in a hazmat suit to drive her. 

Her best advice as someone who lived with COVID-19: “Sanitizing works!”


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