Back in March, my husband, an ICU nurse, tested positive. Though we were completely caught off guard, we managed well (with the help of our village, of course). Now, as our kids prepare to return to school, I’ve been thinking about what we could have done differently and how to be better prepared in the event someone else has to isolate. Here is a list of things we did (or would do now) and items I found helpful to have on hand.
In the Zone
With both of us working in healthcare, it was natural to approach his isolation the way the hospital would. If you have to set up a quarantine zone, think about what you would see in a patient’s room and how each patient has their own belongings that remain in place. The goal is to minimize the back and forth trips and reduce the amount of times you have to enter the patient’s room.
The isolation area: For us, it was the master bedroom. This gave my husband his own bathroom as well. Think about what this looks like in your home. Do you have a guest bedroom? Do you need to consider buying an air mattress? We have a guest room, so I moved in there and shared the hall bathroom with the kids. My husband mentioned that there was no alternative seating in our room. There’s not much I can do about that, but depending on your setup, you might have an idea for alternative seating or consider moving a chair in there (like in a hospital).
PPE: My masks and gloves remained outside of his room, ensuring that I was outfitted prior to entry. He had his own stash of masks at the bedside for him to don when I entered.
Garbage: He had his own trash bag. I didn’t want to collect his contaminated trash to be brought through the house multiple times a day. When his trash needed to be taken out, it went straight outside.
Laundry: Providing my husband with his own basket helped me avoid touching contaminated clothing and lugging it through the house. Also, I washed his clothing alone.
Hydration: Have a Yeti-type cup or ice bucket stocked with ice to remain in-room. You’ll also want some disposable cups (this accomplishes two things: contains the spread and cuts down on dishes). I kept bottled water and Gatorade in his room. This way, I wasn’t bringing any contaminated cups back and forth to fill at our fridge, and he could fill his own cup without calling for me.
Things to do: After about 10 days, my husband perked up. Unfortunately, he still had 4 days of quarantine left. He got bored. Besides his computer and the TV, he didn’t have too much going on in there. It would be a good idea to have a few never-before-seen movies, books, etc. at the ready. Consider who might have to isolate. What would you want? Your kids? Your spouse? It doesn’t have to look like an episode of Doomsday Preppers; just have some ideas.
Thermometers: It’s good idea to have two: one to remain with the patient and one to remain with everyone else for self-monitoring.
Reducing fever: Have extra acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Your provider will recommend which fever reducers, if any, are preferred. At the time, our doctor wanted my husband taking only Tylenol, which we did not have. Thankfully, a friend delivered some, but it would have been easier to already have a bottle in the cabinet.
Ice packs: At some point, our physician took him off Tylenol completely and asked him to try to ride the fever out. When this happened, we were grateful to have BeKOOOL gel sheets (available for kids and adults).
Prescriptions: Remember, you’re not leaving. Anything you need will have to be brought to you. Make sure your spouse isn’t running low on his blood pressure medication, don’t let yourself get down to your last birth control pill, etc.
Oral care: Sounds gross, but there were days when my husband was truly too sick to brush his teeth. I made sure he had hard candies, mints, gum, and lip balm for the early days when he couldn’t make hygiene a priority.
Toothbrushes: You should replace the toothbrush any time you’re sick. Just for good measure, even those of us who did not become sick replaced our toothbrushes.
Contact lenses/glasses: The patient’s contact lenses need to be thrown away and replaced upon recovery. Make sure to have extra lenses and glasses for backup. As the caregiver, I wore my glasses during this time to avoid touching my eyes as much as possible. I tossed my lenses and replaced them when he recovered.
Managing the House
Cash: I never have cash on me. On two separate occasions, I had to ask my parents to bring me some cash because, of course, the tooth fairy paid us a visit, and I couldn’t run to the ATM. This will also be helpful in any delivery circumstances where you’re required to tip in cash.
Bedding: You’re going to need some extra sets of clean sheets and mattress protectors. You may need to move people around bedrooms. The patient may need a fresh set for whatever reason. Just trust me, and have clean sheets.
Meals: I tend to make a lot food and freeze portions. I’m grateful that I already had some meals ready to go in my freezer. I wish we’d have had a few more cans of chicken noodle soup. There wasn’t much food he enjoyed, but it was good to have bland items just to give him something. Additionally, my kids were delighted when, about halfway through, I let them live off Easy Mac and frozen pizza.
Paper products: There was a lot going on. I was in survival mode and had to save energy where I could. We all used a lot of paper plates.
Disinfecting: Make sure you have your preferred cleaning products or at least some bleach water. You’ll be wiping down hard surfaces throughout the house, and when the patient recovers, you’ll want to do some heavy duty cleaning in that area. That includes changing the sheets. Again.