Five Ways to Care For Loved Ones While Socially Distanced
The longer the pandemic lingers, the more gray areas, inconsistencies, and unanswered questions emerge.
- When is it safe to remove your mask?
- How should you respond to someone who is unmasked in public?
- When should you be tested?
- Who should know about your test results?
- Should you pursue vaccination?
The standard responses to questions like these offered by officials and healthcare institutions apply in a general sense to most circumstances. But what about unique situations, or scenarios not covered by general statements? In these cases, we are left to our own judgment and we’re all learning to apply discretion consider others and act for the greater good.
One of the most difficult circumstances for many around the world involves a COVID-positive loved one. How can we care for someone we are not supposed to be near? What about the emotional needs that arise from isolation and the absence of human contact? Are there occasions when we bend or break the rules to treat mental and emotional health at the risk of physical health? Are there safe solutions that simply require creativity and flexibility?
(If you are personally dealing with the coronavirus, you need to fight your loneliness as well.)
First, let’s address basic health and safety practices. Here’s a link to the CDC guidelines for caring for someone in your home who has COVID-19. We should adhere to these recommendations as closely as possible.
But most of us want to go beyond physical health and safety precautions. We recognize mental and emotional health needs exist as well, and the physical guidelines present some obstacles to addressing these less tangible but equally vital needs.
- Stay Home. Even if you are not sick, if it is at all possible, stay at the residence with the person who is ill. Provided you can maintain safe separation within the home, your presence will be a comfort.
- Connect Through Tech. We may feel strange or silly video chatting with someone who can hear us through the wall, but this interaction reinforces the value of the relationship. Every positive interaction matters. Do this regularly but briefly. Symptoms can come and go quickly. A person who may not feel up to a conversation at 1 o’clock, maybe in a different mindset at 1:30.
- Play Online Games Together. As long as the affected person is interested, engaging in this way helps pass the time and relieve feelings of loneliness. Chess, word games, trivia challenges, or make up your own fun time-killing activity. The goal is a positive interaction.
- Build A Care Team. What if you contacted a COVID survivor and put him in touch with your sick friend? What if you tracked down a great conversationalist and scheduled talk time with her? What if you found a cook who could prepare your loved one’s favorite dish expertly? “It takes a village” to help someone who is isolated feel valued.
- Organize A Parade. Ask friends and family to make posters and dress up, then drive by the residence slowly, making noise and waving. A personal parade makes anyone feel special.
There are many other ways to show you care, to pay attention, not only to the physical health of your loved one but the mental and emotional health as well.
If your friend or family member is hospitalized, this adds a complication, but don’t despair. Be creative and try new ideas. Not every one will work, but we can even lean into our missteps and often find some humor. The goal is to keep trying. Every positive interaction matters.