Caring for COVID-19 at Home

July 15, 2020

For years, chronically ill patients struggling with complex conditions have benefited from Mercy Virtual’s vEngagement care at home program. Today, COVID-19 patients are also recovering at home – and helping stop the spread – through that same technology: remote monitoring and telemedicine.

“In caring for these patients, we’ve been able to come up with some strategies to recommend to patients and caregivers to keep everyone in the home as safe as possible,” said Dr. Sameer Kirtane, physician lead for Mercy’s vEngagement program.

Dr. Kirtane and his team recommend the following tips:

Symptomatic Care

There are a myriad of symptoms, but the most common symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, GI symptoms, muscle aches, nasal congestion and sore throat.

  • Rest, fluids, over-the-counter medications for symptoms are typically the mainstay of care. 
  • Talk with your doctor to make sure that medications, even over-the-counter ones, are safe to take. Certain medications may be safe for some, but not be appropriate for others depending on a patient’s underlying conditions or due to medication interactions. 
  • Stock up on facial tissues, toilet paper and paper towels.
  • Make sure you have the patient’s physician contact information on hand. 
  • If there is a medical emergency, call 9-1-1 and let the dispatcher know the patient has COVID-19.

Tips for COVID-19 Home Care

Most COVID-19 patients can be safely cared for at home. Dr. Sameer Kirtane, Mercy Virtual vEngagement, shares tips and strategies for caring for COVID-19 at home while keeping everyone safe.

Social Distancing

One of the more challenging aspects of COVID-19 is taking care of the patient at home without putting other members of the household at risk

  • Try to dedicate one room and one bathroom in the house for the exclusive use of the COVID-19 patient. If not possible, try to improve airflow in shared spaces by opening windows.
  • Minimize the number of family members or pets going into room.
  • When going into room, it is ideal for both the caregiver and the COVID-19 patient to wear a mask. However, this may not be possible if the patient is having shortness of breath. Talk to the patient’s doctor for help on determining whether the patient should wear a mask when the caregiver enters the room.
  • When going into a shared bathroom, wait as long as possible after the patient has used the bathroom before going in. Clean any surfaces before using the bathroom after the COVID-19 patient.

Cleaning Regimen

It's important to keep things in the house, especially the main room with the COVID-19 patient cleaned and have a plan from the start.

  • Cleaning supplies: paper towels, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, soap, disposable gloves.
  • Use gloves when handling dirty laundry, trash or dirty dishes. Dispose of the gloves after each use and wash your hands after removing gloves.
  • Use a liner for the patient's trash can. Not only does it help in removing the trash, but keeps the germs more contained.
  • Keep separate towels as well as separate dishes and utensils for use by the COVID-19 patient. If possible, consider using disposal dishes and utensils. 
  • Wash patient’s laundry and linens separately from the rest of the household using hot water.
  • All household members should wash hands frequently.
  • Clean high touch surfaces daily, even if the patient is quarantined. These items include tables, doorknobs, light switches, electronics, remote controls, etc.

Care for the Caregiver

Caring for a COVID-19 patient can be an intense experience and last longer than you may expect. It’s important to care for yourself as well.

  • Clear yourself from commitments such as work, volunteer activities (if you’re still allowed to go in).
  • Make a list of emergency contacts you can call, if needed.
  • Ask others to help with grocery runs and errands. Consider using delivery services, when possible.
  • Redistribute household chores, such as paying bills and taking care of pets.
  • Prepare yourself emotionally. Have friends and family check up on you, even if virtually.
  • Try to give yourself a break from time to time.