Staying Healthy While Caring For the Sick


A friend of ours documented how she stayed healthy caring for her ill husband. She shared this to us to help her share it. Care givers staying healthy is key to avoiding the spead to the others we care for and work with. The following text should be of value to most everyone.

Staying Healthy While Caring For the Sick

03/07/20

Last month my husband, Ken, came down with that nasty flu that has been making the rounds. We share a 900 square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bathroom mountain home. Staying well myself, while caring for him, was going to be a challenge. Three weeks later, he is on the mend, and I avoided getting ill myself. Here are the things we did to manage his illness.

Isolation:

  • Ken remained in the bedroom with the door shut as much as possible while he was actively ill (while running a fever and for several days after his temperature returned to normal). I slept in the spare bedroom.
  • When he left the bedroom to use the bathroom, he wore an N95 mask.
  • I wore an N95 mask and nitrile gloves while tending to him.
  • I sanitized his bedside table frequently. I also switched out and washed the bedsheets several times, adding bleach to the wash.
  • We had a dedicated garbage sack to dispose of masks, paper towels, thermometer sleeves, etc.
  • Once he was over the worst of the initial fever, which lasted about five days and peaked at 102.6 F, if he came out into the general living space, he wore a mask.
  • He continued to wear masks for about two days after his fever was gone. He averaged about one mask per day, so he used about seven masks total, and I used about four, on the days he was most ill.
  • We did not have any visitors while he was ill.

Kitchen and Bathroom

Ken had his own uniquely identifiable set of dishes, silverware, cup and glass, which he used exclusively. - We don’t have a dishwasher, so I used very hot water and lots of dish soap to clean all food preparation and serving materials. Instead of my usual cloth drying towels, I used multiple paper towels to dry dishes, utensils, pots, and pans, etc. - I used a lot of spray disinfectant on faucets, the microwave door, the refrigerator door, work surfaces, doorknobs, the toilet handle, and drawer pulls. I then used paper towels to rub the disinfectant into each surface. I tried to remember to do this as I came into the kitchen to prepare food, and again when leaving the kitchen after I was done.

Food:

  • Early on in his flu, Ken was nauseous and had diarrhea. I kept him well hydrated and often mixed electrolytes into the water I gave him.
  • After his main nausea passed, I gave him warm beverages, including chamomile and ginger tea with honey and lots of fresh lemon, chicken broth, and mushroom stock.
  • He then graduated to bananas, kiwis, oatmeal, chicken soup with chard, broccoli, and lots of garlic, yogurt, scrambled eggs, dry toast, mashed potatoes, baby carrots, and roasted chicken breast when he could manage them.

Preventing spread:

  • Don’t let the sick person touch your pets! They can inadvertently transfer germs to other family members when they pat, hold, or kiss the animals.
  • Don’t share phones, remote controls, car keys, keyboards, or tablets with the sick person. If possible, give the patient their own dedicated units to use during the duration of their illness.
  • Avoid using communal dish towels and sponges, towels, throw pillows, or blankets.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, mouth, or nose! This is one of the most common ways disease spreads.
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue or use your inner elbow to block the spray of droplets when you sneeze or cough. A tissue is better as it can be safely discarded. Virus droplets can stay on your sleeve for some time.
  • Wash your hands frequently with antibacterial soap for 20 seconds, dry your hands with paper towels (not communal towels), or use hand sanitizer. Do not dry your hands on your clothing.
  • Hand cleaning is particularly important when entering or exiting the bedroom, the kitchen, the bathroom, your house, or your car when running errands.
  • Limit your time in public as much as possible.
  • Practice social distancing. When possible, keep ~6 feet distance between you and others.
  • Don’t shake hands or give hugs. Use elbow bumps, Namaste bows, etc. instead.
  • Do not use public transportation if at all possible. This can cause disease to spread.
  • Keep hand sanitizer in your purse, pocket, and in your car. Use it when getting back in the car. I smear it on my steering wheel as well as my hands.
  • Use hand sanitizer after using communal clipboards, sitting in a waiting room, pumping gas, or handling a grocery cart.
  • Use a plastic bag, rather than your hands to pick up fruit and veggies at the grocery store.
  • If you have to go to the doctor’s office or emergency room, call first. They may have triage methods in place and will instruct you on best practices to help avoid disease spread.
  • Sign up for a mail prescription service. Avoid standing in line at your local pharmacy with other sick people and the pharmacologists who are assisting them. We use Amazon’s PillPack Service.

Things you can do to prepare for a pandemic:

  • Have a two-week supply of food that does not require refrigeration
  • Have a two-week supply of water: one gallon of water per day per person
  • Stock up on your prescriptions
  • If possible, have a two-week supply of cash on hand
  • Keep your gas tank full and limit the number of trips you need to take
  • Keep up with the news and latest official guidance

Community Response:

If there is a widespread outbreak of CORVID-19, we may need to think of creative ways to help our neighbors if they get ill. Some of this is tricky, and may not work for every neighbor and neighborhood. Privacy is an issue, so discretion must be used. I am not an expert on this, so do your homework first.

  • If you don’t have one, create a neighborhood phone tree, email list, or private community Facebook page.
  • If neighbors wish to share, create, and update a database to include information on those over 65, have underlying medical conditions, are single parents, or those with limited mobility or resources.
  • If neighbors wish to share, get contact information for family members, doctors, etc.
  • If neighbors wish to share, keep a list of those who are sick. Call once a day to check-in.
  • If supplies, food, or medication is needed, start, and maintain a list. If possible, figure out a way to help with these needs.

What I have written here is based on my own experience, and does not represent any official viewpoint, so take it all with “a grain of salt.” Hopefully, CORVID-19 will not be as deadly as it could be. Either way, it should serve as a wakeup call that there are many things we can do to be prepared, not only for disease, but other disasters as well.

Wishing you and your family the best,

LizAnne Jensen, Bonny Doon

"Only a fool argues with a skunk, a mule, and the cook"
—Cowboy Saying
"If you’re not making dust, you’re eating it."
—Cowboy Sayings