How to Care For a Sick Person at Home and Not Getting Sick Yourself
Most viruses are contagious, however, not all viruses are passed on or contracted the same exact same way. With this in mind, many people are caring for, or may end up caring for, someone they love with a contagious virus or illness. The question is, what can you do to make sure you protect yourself and others in your home from contracting a contagious virus while you care for a sick person?
While you cannot entirely avoid getting sick yourself, you can mitigate the chances of contracting a contagious virus by taking specific steps. There are also certain products and supplies you should keep on hand to help protect you and your family from getting sick while you care for your loved one.
Below are some tips, along with ideas on the supplies you should stock to help your loved one recover while protecting yourself and the rest of your family.
Keep the Sick Person Separate from Common Areas
This is may seem like a drastic or cruel measure, however, this could be your best defense against spreading a virus to other people in your home. Quarantining a sick person is not a new concept as we see hospitals and other medical facilities taking the same measures. Quarantine is not just to protect the sick person, it is also there to protect other people who have other illnesses or compromised immune systems.
Ideas for a “Home Quarantine” Setup:
• Keep the sick person in a spare room with its own bathroom (if possible).
• Put them up in the master bedroom with its own bathroom (if available and if there are no other options).
• Keep them in a room close to another bathroom and have the remaining household use alternate bathrooms (if there are no rooms with private bathrooms).
• Clean bathroom after each use if there is only one bathroom in your home (be sure to wear gloves and a face mask).
• Keep the sick person’s bedroom door closed at all times.
If you do have relatively healthy people living in your home, they could still contract the virus but may end up being A-symptomatic. The danger of this is, they could be carrying the virus to other people with compromised immune systems without even realizing it. The other danger is if someone in your home happens to have a mild case of another virus such as the flu, they would be more susceptible to an additional virus, which could easily exasperate their symptoms and cause some serious health issues.
The same goes for you as the primary caregiver for your loved one. You could catch a virus but show minor or no signs of having it and then end up passing it on to others. Viruses are sneaky this way because we don’t always know who is carrying it and who will have potentially fatal symptoms if they unknowingly contract it from you.
Limit Face-to-Face Contact
While this does go hand in hand with the previous quarantine measure mentioned, there are some other points to consider when it comes to limiting face-to-face contact outside of the quarantine itself.
The only people who should be entering the area of the sick person should only be the caregiver. If you are caring for an elderly parent and there are grandchildren in the home, have them video call or call their grandparent in their room. Encourage other family members outside the home to call or video call as well. These measures will keep everyone safe and your sick loved one will still have the comfort and support they need without putting anyone else at risk.
In addition to limiting contact, it is important that you designate one caretaker to care for a sick person in your home. Having more than one person will make it easier to contract and pass along to others, and it will make it harder to control safety measures, such as wearing masks and gloves, staying at least six feet away, and ensuring hands are consistently being washed. If you know who is doing what, then you can have more control over the spread of a virus in your home.
Pregnant Women and Caring for Sick Children
If it is at all possible, a pregnant woman should not be the caregiver for a sick person in your home. If you pregnant, you are at a higher risk of contracting a contagious virus compared to a healthy woman who is not pregnant. Additionally, anyone with a higher risk of contraction should not be anywhere near someone who is sick with a virus.
If you have a small child or baby who is your sick person, then you will have slightly different measures to take. You could also limit contact and isolate yourself with your child until they recover. If your baby or child has a cough, then make sure to hold their faces away from your face to avoid having them cough on you and have them cough in another direction.
It is important to wash your hands with soap and hot water frequently when you are caring for any sick person in your home, whether it a be a child or adult. You will also want to make sure that the sick person washes their hands and bathes frequently in a separate bathroom as well.
Ventilate The Air, Don’t Circulate it
It is important to ventilate and purify the air in your home as much as possible when you have a sick person in your home. It can be a little tricky if you live in areas with extreme winter or summer conditions, but there are options.
Why should you ventilate and not circulate the air? Even if you have a sick person isolated in your home, the air from that room is being circulated whether you like it or not. Especially if you have a centralized heating and air system. If your house is shut tight all winter, you will have toxic air circulating throughout your home for the entire winter unless you ventilate it and clear it out as best you can.
How can you ventilate and clean the air in your home? Below are some ideas for air ventilation:
• Micro-ventilation – Instead of opening a window wide open in the winter or cooler months, you can crack each window in your house open to help ventilate the entire house.
• Use “winter-mode” on your ceiling fan system – This will pull up cool air and push warm air down. Keep a window cracked open to help get the old air out and get some new air inside the room.
• Air Filtration System – For under $200, you could easily filter the air in any room using an air filtration system. A remote controlled one would the best option when caring for a sick person in your home.
• Natural air filtration methods – Himalayan salt lamps are known for their ability to neutralize positive ions in the air. You can keep them on for 16 or more hours each day in the sick person’s room and other common areas of the house. House plants also help to clean the air in your home and easy to find and quite inexpensive.
Many people don’t think about ventilation when it comes to keeping viruses from spreading in your home, but ventilation is so important for the healthy people in your home and will most likely help your sick family member get well faster because they won’t be breathing in the same stale, toxic air.
Below are some recommended products to consider buying to help with air ventilation and keeping the air in your home clean:
Will Clean Air Stop the Spread of a Virus?
Clean air will help make sure that any airborne illnesses and germs aren’t circulating throughout your home. It can be difficult to control or keep air clean, especially in extreme weather conditions, but you can take the above measures if you are not able to buy air filtration systems. As mentioned earlier, you can buy plants to help clean and filter the air. It won’t necessarily stop a virus from spreading, but it does depend on the type of virus your sick person has as well.
Use Facemasks and Ventilators (As Required)
If you can get face masks, use them when you are around your sick person. Your patient should be wearing one when you or any other caregiver enters the room as well. If you have an infant or child who is ill, you should wear a mask to protect yourself as much as possible.
Many people have disposable face masks. It is important that you do not reuse these because they are one-use only. If you have fabric ones that are multi-use, they should be washed on a regular basis. When you remove disposable masks, throw them straight into the garbage and have your sick family member do the same. Keep them well-stocked with extra disposables or washed reusable masks and have them sanitize their hands after they take off masks and gloves as well.
If your sick person requires a ventilator, make sure all pieces and parts are sanitized and make sure you wash your hands with hot soap and water after you’ve helped remove or put on the ventilator mask. Masks carry a lot of bacteria and viruses and being negligent with the masks could negate their entire purpose.
Keep Home and Surfaces Clean
Keeping our home and common areas clean will continue to help stop the spread of any virus. All of the previously-mentioned measures will only go so if your home and your sick person’s room is dirty and not being kept clean. If you have a lot on your plate already, then do the essential cleaning tasks that will help stop germs from spreading.
Below are some essential cleaning tasks to do and to help you avoid getting sick:
• Wash/change sick person’s bed sheets frequently – After removing the dirty sheets, wash your hands with soap and hot water, wear a mask and gloves, and change your gloves before putting new ones on the bed to avoid transferring any germs. Practice the same with your own bed sheets in case you are carrying some of the virus on your clothes or hair.
• Clean and disinfect surfaces – Focus on bedside tables and dressers, kitchen counters and islands, coffee tables and side tables, and bathroom countertops as well. If someone sneezes or coughs, those particles are going stick to the surface. This is why you want to always keep surfaces as clean as possible.
• Clean toilets and bathtubs – This especially applies to the bathtub or shower your sick family member is using. They should be bathing frequently to ensure the virus isn’t staying on their skin or hair.
• Keep clothes clean and changed – All caregivers and sick people in your home should be changing their clothes frequently and they should be washed frequently as well. Germs are often spread through linens and clothing because it seems harmless to wear the same clothes and use the same sheets when we are sick.
• Vacuum and wash floors – These are surfaces where particles and germs can easily get into or stay on. Wash and disinfect floors and use a disinfecting powder on carpets. Some viruses can live in carpet fibers. Once the sick person has fully recovered, you may want to consider steam cleaning all of the carpets and rooms in your home for additional protective measures.
• Disinfect Small Items – You can purchase wipes to disinfect smaller items such as eye glasses, phones and tablets, and remote controls. This will ensure that the virus does not stay around on these unsuspecting items.
• Keep Utensils Clean and Sanitized – These items should be clean and sanitized. If you have a dishwasher, this is a great way to get utensils and dishes clean while getting the extra sanitization through heat.
When doing any the above cleaning tasks that require water and cleaner, be sure to use hot water for cleaning, for laundry, and for dish washing and rinsing. Hot water and soap used together are great for keeping clothes, linens, bath towels, utensils, a quarantine bedroom and bathroom, and common areas clean and as germ-free as possible.
Here some recommended cleaners to consider having on hand in case of caring for a sick loved one:
Will Cleaning Products Prevent the Spread of a Virus?
Cleaning alone will not prevent the spread of a virus, but it will make sure it doesn’t get very far. Keeping your home clean along with the other measures outlined here while definitely keep exposure to contagious and harmful germs very low for you and your family.
Keep Food Preparation as Safe as Possible
While you don’t necessarily need to keep dishes and cups for your sick person separate, it isn’t a bad idea. Some sources suggest that having a dedicated set of utensils, dishes, and cups for a sick person will help prevent the further spread of any virus. You really cannot be too careful when it comes to preventing the spread of virus germs.
If your sick loved on doesn’t finish their food, dispose of it immediately. Only the designated caregivers should be the ones to dispose of the food. To avoid continual transfer and cycle of the virus, it is important to not store uneaten food as leftovers for the sick person to eat later. If they make any improvement that day, but eat their partially eaten leftovers from the previous day, they may get the virus again. It is hard to know with this one, but you really do not want to take any chances here either.
Make sure after touching any food or eating utensils touched or eaten by your patient that you wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based sanitizer as well.
Consult with Sick Person’s Health Care Provider
If you are caring for a sick loved one or friend in your home, you will want to talk with their healthcare provider to gather as much information as possible. Especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions and if you have children or other sick people in your home.
Here are some things you will want to know:
• How contagious the illness is.
• The incubation period once contracted.
• Early possible symptoms and signs of contracting the illness.
• Any medication or ventilators the sick person should be using.
• Expected recovery time.
• Which health conditions are at most risk.
• Which people in your household are at the most risk so other arrangements can be made, if necessary and possible.
• If there are any antiviral medications you can take or procedures you can follow to prevent getting sick.
• The healthcare provider’s emergency contact information or the procedure to follow should their condition worsen.
It is really important to understand what you are getting yourself into and the adjustments you will need to make in order to protect yourself and your loved ones from getting sick. Taking the time to talk with their loved one’s doctor will help you prepare for the changes and to make the necessary arrangements (or rearrangements) before you bring a sick person into your home.
Is Caring for a Sick Person Safe?
Following certain measures can help keep you and your family safe from spreading a virus when caring for sick person in your home. The above measures will protect you and your family from the contracting a virus so it is important that you take the time to put a plan in place and strictly follow any doctor’s orders and of course your own plan of action as you help your loved one recover. Don’t unnecessarily put others at risk if you cannot accommodate the needs of a sick family member when protecting yourself and others around you.
If you take on a caregiving role, it is important that you remember to avoid as much contact as possible, have a quarantined area of your home where possible, keep your home and common areas clean, practice hand-washing and alcohol-based sanitizing methods, and limit the number of people exposed to a sick person in your home, you will slow, and most likely stop, the spread of any illness. Administer medication properly and if a condition worsens, insure your loved one gets immediate care outside of the home.
When a person requires hospital care, you will not need to care for them, and you should not become their caregiver if they are severely ill. If you have sick kids with at-risk pre-existing conditions, you really want to do what you can to make other arrangements or even hire a dedicated caregiver to work in that area of your home. You may also want to talk with your loved on to see what options they have available for them to receive care in their own home from a nurse or support worker. Remember to never take on a care giving situation that you cannot handle. It is not worth risking your own health, or risking the health of your family, your neighbors, your friends, and coworkers. Be sure you are ready in every way possible and talk with your family member's doctor using the questions outlined earlier so you can be prepared to make the right decisions and to execute the right plan of action. It is nice to be able to step in and care for a loved one but it should be done with extreme caution and care.
For more health tips, please read the other articles on our blog. We have many different topics available to help you and your family live a healthy and happy life no matter the circumstances or situation.