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Don’t Forget About Family Members of Those with COVID

Two paper surgical masks on a table next to lemon slices and pills

Earlier this month, I was talking to a friend who had a family member with COVID. She talked about how COVID is tough on the individuals, but it’s also difficult for the family members. Because of the nature of COVID, its reach extends to those who are living with or quarantined with the sick family member. This wasn’t a perspective I had considered before, and her experience has inspired me to show up differently for my friends and family members navigating COVID. Below are important reminders for us all that came out of our discussion.

Similar to the effects of other health challenges (mental and physical), dealing with COVID affects the whole family. Many ask about how the person who has tested positive is without considering the stress it puts on the family. Onset of the illness, getting tested, waiting for results, quarantining, and hoping no one else gets ill can create tremendous strain on the entire family.

Some of the stressors that families of COVID positive family members deal with:

  • Understanding where to go to get tested. Protocols for testing are not all coordinated and trying to make sure the family member is tested as soon as they show signs of the illness.
  • Once tested, the time waiting and wondering if the family member has it and if they will get critically ill or infect anyone else.
  • Worrying about anyone that was in contact with the family member and making sure to notify them.
  • Waiting for friends and family members tests to come back to make sure no one else got COVID.
  • The lack of verified information about COVID creates even more questions… If the family member gets it and isn’t that ill, will it come back, will there be long term repercussions? If so, what will they be?
  • Quarantining the sick family member and keeping them away from the rest of the family. Sending meals up to their room and using gloves, etc. to make sure germs don’t spread.
  • Stepping up the disinfection routine in the household to keep everyone protected.
  • The family needs to quarantine along with the sick family member and get tested frequently due to their exposure.
  • Family members who work outside the home must also quarantine and work from home if that is feasible. Notifying their employer as well as HR to make sure proper procedures are followed.  
  • The COVID patient as well as the family members can become depressed from the isolation and lack of interaction with others. Making sure to get outside and get a bit of sunlight to keep from getting too depressed is important for everyone in the family. 
  • Keeping up preventative vitamin regimen to help protect the entire family.
  • The family should maintain quarantine for at least 14 days, so ordering groceries, drugs etc. which many relied on early in quarantine is mandatory.
  • Worrying if people will be afraid to be around you after quarantine is over, since there is so much misinformation about the disease and so much that is yet to be discovered.

What can you do?

If you have a friend who mentions that a family member has COVID, check on the ill family member and also check on the whole family. Some things you can do:

  1. If you are going to the store, ask if they need anything, you can drop something off without contact. 
  2. Send a gift card for a restaurant or delivery service. 
  3. Stay in touch with them so they don’t feel so isolated. Send messages reminding them that you are thinking about them. 
  4. Sometimes it is hard for people to ask for help. Instead of asking what they need consider something like “What is one thing I could do that would provide you a little relief?”
  5. If there are things you know would make things easier or bring a little joy, just do it. Safely of course.

If you have additional suggestions please share with us!

Navigating these challenging times can feel heavy but doing it together will make it a little lighter. 

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