The numbers of coronavirus cases around the globe continue to rise and hospitals are struggling to keep up. In most cases, patients are sent home if they have mild symptoms and are not part of the at-risk population.
With home care, it is possible that you, your family, or the family of someone you know may be dealing with an infectious disease in the home. Therefore, it is important for people to know the basic safety precautions on how to care for confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients at home, to protect themselves and people in their households, and prevent the spread of the disease.
It is important that there is only one assigned caregiver for the patient, and that this caregiver should not belong to the high-risk group: those with comorbidities or the elderly.
- Stay connected with a healthcare provider
Maintain constant communication with your doctor or a doctor assigned in your area regarding the patient’s condition. In case of an emergency, notify the nearest hospital that you will need immediate assistance. According to Mayo Clinic, you should call your healthcare provider should these serious symptoms arise:
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent chest pain
- Bluish lips/face
- New confusion
- Inability to stay awake
If you monitor other peculiar symptoms not in the list above, call your healthcare provider or doctor for proper assessment and advice.
- Monitor yourself for possible symptoms
Those caring for COVID-19 patients or individuals who experienced direct exposure to confirmed cases are considered “contacts” by the WHO. You are advised to take good care of your health and to watch out for any development of symptoms within the first 14 days of exposure. Symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pressure/pain
- Limit your exposure
COVID-19 is spread via respiratory droplets when someone talks, coughs, or sneezes. These droplets may come in direct contact with someone if they are too close. Since respiratory droplets fall from the air, these come into contact with and stay on the ground or other surfaces for a prolonged period. If a person touches this contaminated surface and touches his/her face, then there is risk of infection.
To limit the spread of the disease, proper physical distancing should be practiced inside the home. The patient should be kept in a well-ventilated area, separate from the other members of the household, if possible, with access to his/her own bathroom. Common areas should also be well-ventilated.
Activities should be done separate from the sick person’s room so other family members can stay healthy, most especially those with other illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, chronic kidney disease, and other related conditions, or are elderly (60 years old and over). The patient should eat (or be fed) in their room, if possible.
Wash the patient’s dishes and utensils separately and immediately, wearing gloves and using hot water. Clean hands after taking off your gloves or handling used items.
Do not share personal items with the patient. These include any dishes, glassware, or utensils, clothes, electronics, etc. Lastly, avoid entertaining visitors until the patient is officially cleared.
- Stay safe using protective equipment
Both patient and caregiver must wear an appropriate medical face mask that snuggly covers both nose and mouth whenever in the same room. The face mask should be replaced after 8 hours or when it becomes soiled or damp.
Wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) like N95 masks, face shield, googles, double gloves, water-resistant aprons, etc. is recommended when caring for confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients, when handling any item used by the patient, and when cleaning or using disinfectants. All these precautions must be practiced whenever you enter the patient’s room, regardless of how long you spend inside. Don’t touch your face while wearing a mask to avoid infection.
After leaving the patient’s room, make sure to dispose the PPE (face shields, goggles, masks, gloves) properly and thoroughly wash your hands.
- Sanitize often
It seems very simple, but washing hands is very effective in curbing the transmission of viruses and germs.
Always wash your hands with clean soap and water for at least 20 seconds to ensure traces of bacteria, viruses, or germs are washed away. You may use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60% isopropyl alcohol content if soap and water are unavailable. For drying hands, you may use disposable hand towels, but if this unavailable, use cloth towels but replace them often.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that “high-touch” surfaces and areas in the home are disinfected every day, such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, toilets, and the like. If the spot is visibly dirty, it is recommended to clean it first with soap and water before using an appropriate disinfectant. The CDC published a complete guide on cleaning and disinfectant use in relation to caring for COVID-confirmed or suspected cases at home.
- Handle laundry and dispose waste properly
Keeping ourselves safe means wearing protective equipment and also ensuring contaminated objects are handled properly, such as clothing, linen, or waste.
Laundry and Linen
Designate one hamper for contaminated clothes and another for linen used by either patient or caregiver whenever inside the room. Outer clothes worn by the caregiver inside the patient’s room should be immediately removed upon exiting, and placed in the designated hamper. Avoid shaking the dirty laundry at all while transporting the clothes to your laundry area to ensure the contaminants don’t spread in other areas of your home. These contaminated items are safe to wash using warm water and laundry detergent. Dry the wet clothes on hot-setting in the drier or sun-dry.
For the person doing laundry, wear gloves and wash hands right away after removing them. Most people forget cleaning and disinfecting their hampers before using it again. Make sure to clean them to ensure there are no traces of the virus left on the surface.
Trash cans should be lined especially for the dedicated bin for the patient. When handling the trash, try to wear gloves and wash your hands with soap and water immediately after disposal.
These are just some precautions you and your family can do to care for your sick loved one. The chance of recovery from COVID-19 is high especially for those with mild symptoms. If you work together to protect one another, there is a greater possibility of reducing the spread of the infection within your home.
Your doctor will always be in the best position to give the appropriate medical advice for your condition. For suspected undesirable drug reaction, seek medical attention immediately and report to the FDA at www.fda.gov.ph and UNILAB, Inc. at UNILAB-1 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Always buy your medicine from your trusted drugstores and retailers.