Lessons Learned: Caring for A Family Member with Coronavirus

On March 17th, my twenty-year old daughter Gillian tested positive for the Coronavirus. We immediately quarantined her in our home. My husband Brian and I went into isolation as we struggled with the urgent problem of how to care for Gillian while continuing to keep ourselves well. We were up-to-date regarding the spread of the Coronavirus and its symptoms but now we found ourselves struggling to find practical advice about how to take care of someone who became ill.

Together Brian and I devised a game plan that we hoped would limit our exposure while providing our daughter with much-needed symptom relief, nutrition, love and care. These are our personal tips—they have not been medically approved or come with a “you won’t get sick too” guarantee. These are simply our lessons learned. Shared in the hopes of helping the countless other people mired and overwhelmed in a situation like ours.

The first thing that we did was to quarantine Gillian in her bedroom and to give her exclusive use of a bathroom nearby. Preparing for the long haul, fourteen days of quarantine and isolation at a minimum, we knew that we had to put some safe caregiving practices in place. Here’s what we did.

Communicating & Connecting

It is emotionally and physically difficult to care for someone you love from a distance. We relied on our cell phones and computers to bridge the gap. As Tela-caregivers and Tela-parents, we  resorted to Facetime calls to comfort Gilly, assess her condition, respond to her needs and most importantly, to stay connected. The phone and the computer became our lifeline, literally.

Medical Care: Symptom Tracking

From the very start we knew that it was important to stay on top of Gillian’s illness as it progressed. We had multiple conversations with her doctor who often needed to know the length and severity of her symptoms. We kept a daily digital diary on our cellphones with input from Gilly. In addition, we noted her temperature and when she took over-the-counter medications for symptom relief.  These details are important whether you track them electronically or opt for the low-tech solution, pen and paper.

Quarantine Central: Gilly’s Bedroom

To keep Gillian isolated yet with some degree of independence, we stocked piled her room with self-care items. Supplies included boxes of tissues, a roll of paper towels, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, disposable gloves and masks, a large pitcher for water (hydration is a must!) and garbage bags. In addition, we gave her a small hand bell that we had in the house. If she was too tired to call us or coughing very hard, we wanted her to be able to quickly let us know that she needed us.

Room Service: Meals & Medicine

To avoid having to go into Gillian’s room to serve her, we set up a small end table in front of her door. We placed her meals on the table and went downstairs. Gilly opened the door when we weren’t nearby. She brought the food into her room and closed the door. Wearing a mask and gloves—Brian or I would wipe down the table and the doorknob to her room with disinfectant following each meal.

To further minimize potential viral exposure from Gillian’s dishes, we served her on disposable paper plates, with paper cups and plastic utensils.  After she was done eating, Gilly could throw them away in the trash bag in her room. When the bag was full, she would tightly close it and place it outside her door. Gloved and masked, we would grab it and carry it outside immediately to our trash bin.

Stay Healthy: Wash Your Hands Often or Use Hand Sanitizer

Most people already know that hand washing is a key defense against the Coronavirus. Brian and I took this recommendation to heart (you should too!) To be effective, the CDC Guidelines say to wash hands with clean water, apply soap, create a lather, then scrub them together for at least 20 seconds before rinsing. Don’t forget to clean between your fingers and under your nails. While it is tempting to be lazy at times and skip doing it, please don’t. Brian and I keep each other honest, constantly asking “Did you wash your hands?!” We credit diligent hand washing for helping us to stay healthy.

This week we reached the fourteenth-day milestone. Thankfully Gillian is much better! We knew that she had turned the corner when we heard loud music coming from her room and she started ignoring our texts. What sweet relief!

Our doctor suggested that we extend Gillian’s quarantine for three additional days from the time that she became symptom free. We can’t wait to spring Gilly from her room or house arrest as we jokingly call it. We knew that we were a strong and resilient family, but the Coronavirus challenged us to be problem solvers and caregivers in the face of great stress and uncertainty. We hope not to repeat this experience—this is one lesson we never want to relearn.

Lessons Learned (Part 2): Easing Our Daughter’s Coronavirus Symptoms — 5 Simple Tips

In early March, my husband Brian and I took care of our daughter Gillian (age 20) who had the Coronavirus. To protect our own health, we developed a set of procedures to manage her illness while keeping us well. I shared our advice in a blog, “Lessons Learned: Caring for a Family Member with Coronavirus.” Since then I have received requests from people wanting to know about her coronavirus symptoms and how we made her comfortable. Here’s 5 non-medical ways we helped her to feel better.

Rest Easier

One of Gillian’s symptoms was extreme fatigue. We set-up her nightstand with useful, self-care items that she could easily reach. These included a box of tissues, water pitcher and paper cup, hand sanitizer, and lip balm. We put a garbage bag by her bed so that she could immediately throw away her tissues.

Layer Blankets

We opted to use lightweight blankets on her bed instead of a heavy comforter. This way when her temperature fluctuated she could easily adjust the blankets for her comfort. In addition, we were able to wash her blankets in our own washing machine as opposed to having to take them to a commercial laundry.

Support Pillows

Gillian had a nasty cough. In order to prevent her from laying flat when she was awake, we gave her pillows to prop herself up into a sitting position. Still uncomfortable, she complained that she couldn’t find a comfy spot to rest her head. In a “Dr. Mom” flash of inspiration, I gave her a u-shaped travel pillow. The travel pillow supported her head and neck and it made resting upright much easier. A rolled towel will provide similar support.

Fresh Air

Gillian was quarantined in her room for over two weeks. When she started to feel better, we encouraged her to open her windows to let fresh air in and to help her connect with the outside world. When she first became ill, she slept a lot. This threw off her normal sleep schedule. Seeing the sun, smelling the fresh air, and watching day turn into night helped her to get back on track.

Photo Credit: Pampered Chef

Chicken Soup

And finally, nothing shows love and says “feel better” than a bowl of hot chicken soup. Ask any Nana! For Gillian and many other people struggling with the Coronavirus, they may experience a marked loss of appetite. To make sure that she had nutrition and stayed hydrated, we served her plain chicken broth. As her appetite increased, we added the vegetables and noodles.

Chicken soup is high in protein which can help boost the immune system and it is a good source of vitamins and minerals which can aid digestion. Studies have also shown that hot chicken soup can help thin out mucus.

We are thrilled to share this photo of Gillian, fully recovered, leaving quarantine central-her bedroom for the first since she became sick. She has rejoined our family in our isolation.

To read more “Lessons Learned” in my series about my family’s experience, visit Cancerbeglammed.com. Remember we are all #inthistogether.