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If someone you are close to is sick with coronavirus but doesn’t live with you, it can be hard to know how to help them while also keeping yourself safe. How can you effectively support them from afar while they’re quarantined? Should you move in to help them recover? Here are the top ways you can help them during a difficult period.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who have COVID-19 should limit their exposure to other people as much as possible. That includes avoiding any unnecessary visitors, so you shouldn’t visit your friend or family member simply to keep them company or help them with tasks they can handle themselves or those that can wait. However, providing necessary care to your sick loved one is a different story.
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If your loved one lives alone or doesn’t live with someone who can safely care for them, you might wonder if you should move in or let them live with you while they recover. The CDC recommends that the sick person should be quarantined as much as possible. However, there are many factors to consider when making this decision, including their age and mobility, their preexisting health conditions and the risk to you.
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According to Dr. Michael Bauer, medical director at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, there is no universal answer to the question of whether or not to move in, but there are factors to consider. Their age and whether the sick person has certain medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are key points in the decision-making process. The proposed caretaker’s health and pre-existing conditions should also be part of the considerations. “It’s different if you’re talking about your 30-year-old healthy daughter who was diagnosed with COVID but seems to be fine versus your 74-year-old grandmother who has diabetes and high blood pressure but isn’t sick enough yet to be in the hospital,” he explained. “Those are two very different things. Then you have to flip that around to the caretaker. Are you sending in a 35-year-old to go help grandma or are you going to take care of someone and you’re 63 and on blood pressure medicines? Someone who is potentially at risk for complications if at all possible should not be the caretaker.”
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If you and your sick loved one decide it’s best for you to support them from a distance, there are still plenty of ways you can help. One major thing you can do for them is run errands to get groceries, prescriptions and other items they may need. You might also consider arranging grocery deliveries through a delivery service for them and utilize contactless delivery.
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If your friend or family member is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, they might not feel up to cooking or doing dishes. One way to not only help them but also support local businesses during this trying time is to order them food. In fact, you can order two meals from the same restaurant and eat them together in separate locations while on a video call. It’s a fun way to feel like you’re eating out while still staying quarantined.
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Another way to help keep your friend or family member fed is to set up a “meal train.” Reach out to the sick person’s circle of friends and family and have everyone claim a day on a shared calendar. On their designated day, each person is responsible for bringing over a meal to the person who is sick with COVID-19.
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It can be a huge burden for the sick person to answer texts and emails from friends, family, coworkers and more asking about their health or sending well-wishes. Offer to take over the role of “communications manager” for your sick friend or family member. You can call or message people on their behalf and create a group text, email list or other form of mass communication to send out updates and coordinate people who want to help.
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Even though your friend or family member is quarantining, they might still have to interact with other people. The CDC recommends people who are sick should wear a mask or cloth face covering to prevent spreading the virus to others. Demand for masks is high, but you could always make your own face mask for the person who is sick. There are plenty of online tutorials on sewing your own mask or making one using a bandana or an old T-shirt. Customizing a mask to suit your friend’s interests or personality is a way to show you care in this difficult time.
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The CDC recommends that anyone who is sick should avoid contact with their pets. This means no petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, or sharing food or bedding. If your loved one lives alone or to ease the burden on their other housemates, you could offer to pet sit for them. Helping to keep their furry friends safe can help give them peace of mind as they recover.
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If your friend or family member has children, they could be concerned about spreading COVID-19 to their kids or feel too sick to care for their children who are at home with them. Have a conversation with the sick person about how you could best support them as a parent. If possible, you could provide part-time childcare or even temporarily let their children live with you.
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If your friend is too sick to do chores around their house, you can offer to come over and handle certain tasks for them. These can be done safely as long as you take proper precautions, including having your loved one stay in a separate room or area. One way you can help is by going over and doing basic cleaning, such as vacuuming, mopping or washing dishes for them. If you’re handling any dishes, glasses or silverware used by a person who is sick, the CDC recommends wearing gloves and thoroughly cleaning those items with soap and hot water.
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Another chore that could be piling up for someone who is sick is laundry. The CDC recommends wearing gloves while handling any clothes, bedding or other items from someone who is sick. Make sure to wash your hands after removing your gloves or moving clothes from the washer to the dryer. Also, avoid shaking their laundry as you load it into the machine — this can release germs and viruses that can then spread through the air.
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In limiting their exposure to the outside world, your friend or family member might be hesitant or unable to take out their own trash. Wear gloves when picking up trash around the house or taking out the garbage and then wash your hands afterward.
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If you’re not living with someone who is sick, have frequent check-ins with them. “Unfortunately, not to be dramatic, conditions with this can change pretty quickly, especially on day seven to 10 of the illness,” Dr. Bauer said. “That seems to be this window where people who are at risk run into problems. It literally can change in a matter of hours. Make sure the person understands that if you start to feel short of breath, chest pains or not like yourself, they need to get in touch with somebody right away.” If they are experiencing any emergency warning signs for COVID-19, call 911 right away on their behalf.
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According to the CDC, if your friend or family member is experiencing certain symptoms, you should get medical attention immediately. These include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to wake up, and bluish lips or face. Some symptoms may also be specific to the infected person. Have your loved one ask their medical provider for other symptoms to be on the lookout for based on their age and medical history.
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Even people who don’t have COVID-19 and are self-quarantining can find themselves developing unhealthy habits like staying up too late. Encourage your sick friend or family member to stick to a routine. It can help their mood, mental health and sleep schedule. You can check in on them in the mornings to make sure they’ve gotten out of bed or in the evenings to make sure they’re about to hit the hay.
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While it’s often best to offer to take care of specific tasks for someone going through a health crisis, your friend or family member’s needs might be outside of the previous suggestions — and they might be too embarrassed or afraid to burden you to ask outright. Give them a window to ask for anything they might need during this time.
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While your friend or family member is recovering, they could be less connected to the news and developments in the outside world. You don’t want to cause panic or add to their stress, but you can continue to pass along reliable information about this evolving pandemic and also help answer any questions they may have. Consider sharing heartwarming stories that you hear as well.
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It might seem too simple, but making a phone call to see how the person is doing is one way to brighten their day. This will help prevent them from feeling isolated and be a welcome distraction during quarantine. You can also catch up over video chat or arrange a group video call with other friends and loved ones using the many ways to keep in touch during the coronavirus pandemic.
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The signs of spring are springing up, but your friend might be missing it in quarantine. Despite some coronavirus myths out there, it is safe to send a bouquet of spring flowers to your friend or family member to brighten their day. While many physical flower shops are closed, you can still order from some businesses online or by phone.
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The recovery time for coronavirus could last anywhere from two to six weeks, during which time your loved one could tire of binging TV shows. Depending on their energy level, there are a variety of ways to help keep your loved one entertained, including sending them a new book, a puzzle or even a cool DIY kit to learn to knit or grow herbs. You could also simply keep them company doing something more relaxed, such as watching a movie or streaming a concert via video chat together.
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Asking about money can be uncomfortable, but it’s worth the awkwardness to know if your friend is facing financial hardships because of coronavirus. If you or other people close to them are able to help them financially, it could take a huge burden off them so they can focus on recovering. You can also help them navigate their financial options with their bank and more.
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This might not help your sick friend or family member directly, but it’s an important step to take to keep others safe. If you think you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 despite precautions, the CDC recommends 14 days of quarantine after the time of exposure. It could take that long for symptoms to develop, so even if you don’t feel sick, you should opt to self-quarantine to prevent the spread of the illness.
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Even once your sick friend or family member has recovered, people might be hesitant to be around them. However, if they tick these boxes, it should be safe to be around them and provide them with some much-needed human interaction while still maintaining social distancing. According to the CDC, people with COVID-19 or its symptoms who are recovering at home can finally leave quarantine if they meet three criteria: They have had no fever for at least three full days without the use of medicine that reduces fevers; their other symptoms have improved; and at least seven days have passed since their symptoms first appeared.
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Caring for and worrying about someone who is sick can be stressful and take a toll on your own mental health. It’s important to take care of yourself so you can effectively take care of others. Follow these steps to help relax and clear your mind, take a workout class, or go for a run outside. You can also learn tips for managing your coronavirus stress and anxiety from mental health professionals.
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