Friday | 05 June | 2020
By Wilma Bedford
In all probability Covid-19 will be with us for a considerable time and even come and go in waves. The forecast is that most people will be infected in various degrees of seriousness but that most of them will survive.
Most patients, excluding critical cases, will not require hospitalisation, and depending on the increase and gravity of cases it is possible that hospitalisation will not be available, which will compel patients to use home-care.
What will you need for home-care? Isolation, disinfecting equipment, medication, nutrition and something with which to keep the patient occupied.
It is most important that the patient stays in complete isolation; if, for example, the patient lives in a one-bedroom residence, the patient is allocated the bedroom and where there is an en suite unit, the patient enjoys precedence. No-one except one care-giver may enter the room, not even pets. Isolate the patient with his/her stock of disinfectants and personal toiletries and hot water. The patient must wear a mask at all times, especially when a communal bathroom is visited; the patient may cough or sneeze suddenly and the care-giver is not able to move away in time. Where a bathroom is shared, all toiletries and towels must be removed in order to protect the other residents; rather use paper towels. If the patient is able, he/she must disinfect all surfaces he/she touched him/herself – taps, doorknobs, light switches etc., and disinfection must take place before any other residents use the bathroom.
Ensure sufficient ventilation in the sick room and throughout the entire home.
Everything the patient touches must be disinfected, from cutlery to hard surfaces, therefore it is essential to have a supply of disinfectants available. Sanitation equipment will include bleach (½ cup on 16 cups of water [125ml on 3.5 litres of water]), face masks to cover both nose and mouth, latex gloves with which to handle the patient and laundry, hand sanitiser, laundry soap, body soap, nail brush, paper towels and tissues.
Inform your doctor or chemist if you have to take care of a patient at home and request that the necessary medication be delivered to you, but normal cold medicine will also relieve symptoms. The patient will need couch medicine and a nasal spray. Diarrhoea may occur in the patient, therefore the necessary medication must be available, as well as electrolyte and vitamin supplements. Avoid sugar. A thermometer is essential and where possible also an oximeter, which indicates heart beat as well as the oxygen level in the blood, to display how well the lungs are functioning. Make sure the patient has a supply of chronic medication. Have the telephone and emergency numbers of the chemist and doctor at hand, for example on the fridge door, and inform other residents where the numbers are to be found.
If the following symptoms are observed, emergency measures should be taken immediately: the patient has trouble breathing, experiences pain or pressure in the chest, is confused, is unable to wake up or stay awake, lips or face turn blue.
Don’t share cutlery, bedding, towels, or electronic equipment. The patient’s laundry may be washed together with that of the other residents, but must be washed with soap and hot water and preferably be sun-dried.
Equally important as medication and healthy nutrition, is for the patient to be provided with enough entertainment or even a handicraft project to keep him/her busy. Provide the patient with electronic communication, for example a laptop, reading matter, jigsaw puzzles, a radio and/or TV, and if possible, material with which to practise his/her hobby.
When is it safe to break the isolation?
If the patient did have symptoms of Covid-19, it will only be safe to break isolation if the person has not shown signs of any fever for 72 hours and did not take any fever medication, other symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath have improved and the patient has received two negative tests 24 hours apart.
Persons who did NOT show symptoms of Covid-19 but tested positive: after 10 days and no symptoms and after two tests 24 hours apart.
Advice for Caregivers
Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov
Tips for Creating a Covid-19 Home care Kit.
April 9, 2020.Trinity School of Medicine. http://www.trinityschoolofmedicine.org.
What to Put in a Covid-19 Emergency Home-Care Kit
Wall Street Journal. http://www.wsj.com
* All information was correct at the time of publication.