Your fears have come true: Someone in your household has contracted COVID-19 and must remain quarantined at home. What do you do now?
You can care for a COVID-19 patient without getting infected yourself or infecting others in your household. Two Roswell Park doctors tell you how.
Paul DeJac, MD, Chief Hospitalist, Department of Medicine, recommends these steps for caring for a patient with COVID-19 in your home:
- Limit the number of caregivers, to reduce the risk of exposing more people.
- The patient should remain in a dedicated space while the disease runs its course — preferably a bedroom or extra room with a door, not a main living space used by others.
- Ideally, the infected person should use a separate bathroom. If that’s not possible, be sure to use the bathroom at different times, and sanitize it after the patient uses it.
- Limit face-to-face contact with the patient; use text or phone calls to communicate.
- Routinely sanitize door handles, faucet knobs and all surfaces in the home: window sills, countertops, tables, chairs, microwave and refrigerator handles.
- If possible, wear a mask and gloves while you are in contact with the patient, then wash your hands afterward and avoid touching your face.
“COVID-19 is passed on through droplet transmission or through contamination of mucous membranes by touching your eyes, mouth or nose,” Dr. DeJac says. “If you maintain the recommended social distance and practice good hand hygiene, the risk of contamination is pretty low.”
Caregivers should leave food and medications outside the patient’s door, unless the patient is unable to retrieve them. If that’s the case, caregivers should limit the number of times they enter the patient’s room and limit contact when they do enter. Afterward, they should disinfect door handles and any other surfaces they may have touched, and wash their hands.
Keep the patient’s laundry separate from other laundry in the house. If patients feel well enough to do their own laundry, they should take off their own clothing “as close as possible to the washing machine, and refrain from shaking out items before putting them into the machine,” Dr. DeJac says. They also should choose hot or warm water for washing.
Finally, patients should monitor their own temperatures twice a day, so be sure to have a working thermometer available.
Roswell Park's Response to COVID-19
In these uncertain days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Roswell Park continues to provide essential care to our patients. We have special guidelines for patients, visitors and employees.Learn More
Timothy Quinn, MD, Co-Director, Intensive Care Unit, recommends these steps if troublesome symptoms begin:
Because Roswell Park patients with preexisting conditions — cardiac, respiratory or an immune-compromised state — are susceptible to serious complications from COVID-19, they should get help if they develop symptoms of a respiratory infection.
Patients in active treatment for cancer who are having coronavirus symptoms — fever, cough, shortness of breath — should call their cancer clinics or nurse triage if it is outside normal clinic hours. Nurse triage can be reached at 716-845-2300. If you are experiencing symptoms, be sure to call before coming to Roswell Park for any scheduled appointments.
“If you do not have worsening respiratory symptoms, follow the CDC guidelines: Stay home and self-quarantine, limit your exposure to other people and wait for symptoms to improve,” adds Quinn.