If your friend or relative is sick at home with COVID, here’s how to help

What I thought was a dry throat caused by staying in my grandparents’ 85 degree house on vacation was COVID-19. I tested positive on January 3, the day the United States hit a record number of new COVID-19 cases, at 1,171,378. Everyone else who was there — my mom, my teenage sisters, and my grandparents – tested positive around the same time, although we were all vaccinated.

In addition to feeling intense fatigue, aches and congestion, I was very anxious for the rest of the family, even though I tried to watch them from afar. Other family members showed me compassion and provided me with information about serious symptoms that I should watch out for. (Turns out we all had mild cases.)

What I needed most while I was sick was emotional support, but everyone with coronavirus is different. And chances are you know such a person, because the omicron variant continues to rage: Between December 29 and January 10, around 8.8 million workers said they couldn’t get to work because they had COVID or cared for someone. who has.

If you’re wondering what you can do to help someone at home with COVID-19, here are some suggestions, based on my experience, and interviews with experts and others who have had the virus. .

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— Provide groceries and more

Grocery shopping is a top priority, especially for those who don’t live in areas with access to grocery delivery services. Takeout food delivery, either in person or through a service like Uber Eats, is also appreciated.

But another extremely useful run is a pharmacy run. Patients may need a prescription refill, may run out of menstrual supplies, or may simply appreciate a heating pad and some over-the-counter remedies.

Consider other items that can help patients feel better, such as homemade soup or soothing tissues. “I found a huge stash of clean pillows for myself,” 29-year-old Eli Sashihara said. He used them to support himself when he had a particularly nasty congestion while self-isolating with his 27-year-old brother and roommate Gabe in New Hope, Penn. The triple-vaccinated siblings were hit hard by the virus — “I had pretty much every symptom you hear about,” Eli said — and relied on the support of their parents and older brother.

— Help with chores

In addition to delivering groceries and supplies, you can offer to take on certain tasks. Consider volunteering to do laundry; clean sheets and pajamas can help a patient feel better. If someone with COVID lives in a colder climate, you can shovel their driveway or sidewalk or hire someone else to do the job; in warmer regions, you can water outdoor plants. You can also collect mail and newspapers, or take out trash and recycling.

— Care of uninfected household members

New Jersey residents Steve Sussman and Andrea Beloff Sussman, who are in their 50s, contracted COVID-19 in December 2020, but the young adults in the home were spared. “What we enjoyed the most was [our relatives’ and friends’] thoughtfulness when it came to our children. Making sure they had food, that they had what they needed,” Sussman said.

Child care and pet care are concerns for many coronavirus-positive families. Nathan Sashihara, Gabe and Eli’s older brother, took care of their kittens, as they feared the cats might contract the virus. If you’re not ready for an extended playdate or boarding situation, consider offering to walk a dog or talk to a healthy child at a park to refuel.

— Let them know you are thinking of them

Three generations of the Subhani family in Union, NJ, contracted COVID before they could be vaccinated last spring, leaving them feeling isolated. Mercedes Subhani, 22, who together with her mother cared for her grandparents when she herself was ill, said she appreciated her aunt sitting in their backyard and talking to them on the phone. It was as if his aunt was there in person – unendangered.

The family was also touched when relatives delivering groceries included something special. “We all love Ferrero Rocher, and my aunt and uncle knew that so they got the essential groceries and just had that box on top,” Subhani said. “And those little things obviously make a difference.”

TikToks, meme sharing, emailing, and text messaging are short and sweet ways to let someone know they’re on your mind. But remember that technology-enabled communication doesn’t work for everyone, as James Lubben, professor emeritus at Boston College’s School of Social Work, points out. “Technology has helped enrich social bonds between those who are able to navigate this technology,” he said, but it’s difficult for people who don’t have the resources or the training. In this case, he recommends going back to basics, whether it’s phone calls or even letters. The cards can be enjoyed by all ages.

— Daily recording

Eric Goldberg, a family physician at NYU Langone Health, said every home should have a thermometer to track fever and a fingertip pulse oximeter to measure a person’s blood oxygen. If you know a COVID patient who does not have these items, it is a good idea to provide them.

Then, set up daily checks to determine if intervention is needed. You want to know how the patient is breathing; if their oxygenation levels continue to drop, or drop after little exertion; if their temperature continues to rise; or if they have a fever above 103 degrees for several days in a row.

“If they can’t finish a sentence without gasping or struggling to breathe, then that’s a sign they’re not recovering as expected,” Goldberg said.

When I was sick, I called my grandfather every day. His permanent bronchial asthma and memory loss made it difficult to track his symptoms, so I chatted with him and listened if he coughed.

— Keep your spirits up

“One important thing that family members can do is assure their loved ones that feeling depressed or anxious during a time like this is completely normal and even expected,” said Brooke Smith, assistant professor of psychology at Western Michigan University. When people try to hide from these uncomfortable feelings, it “actually ends up increasing feelings of depression and anxiety, and it’s hard to engage in meaningful activity,” she said.

She suggested talking about what is meaningful to your friends and loved ones and thinking about how, even in less than ideal circumstances, they can continue to pursue their values. “Let’s say someone is enjoying being a loving grandparent, but they can’t see their grandkids right now,” Smith said. “But maybe they could write letters, or maybe they could do a job. There are many ways people can be creative in pursuing their values.

— Fight boredom

When Eli Sashihara’s fever was raging, it was difficult for him to stare at a screen. If binge Netflix isn’t working for someone you know, drop other activities. Puzzles, crafts, knitting supplies, and books are good places to start.

— Help with cleaning

Weeks of dishes, laundry and general clutter add up quickly. A common concern of those interviewed was the state of their accommodation after their illness; many had persistent symptoms that made it difficult to resume household chores. “A big thing is just helping around the house,” Subhani said. “I know a lot of people want to do extravagant things, but sometimes basic needs go a long way.”

– be persistent

Finally, Sussman suggests asking your friends or loved ones to tell you one specific thing you can do for them during this difficult time. “A lot of people don’t want to put a burden on their family or their friends, and they say, ‘No, I’m fine, I get it, don’t worry,'” he said. “But push them a bit.”

Navigating the Pandemic

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