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Managing COVID at Home/Series

If you get COVID, fingers crossed your symptoms are mild enough to stay at home. Chances are as vaccination levels rise keeping hospitalisation rates lower (check out this cool, postcode by postcode map) that this is exactly what will happen. If you get a positive result your medical care will become part of a bigger system that is likely to involve your local GP, health and wellbeing practitioners and contact tracers. But what does that look like?

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Home Care

There are home-care guidelines out there that offer us good insight into what that care might look like or you can ask your Doctor next time you visit. Each COVID case is different, but there are some basic elements that you can anticipate.

If you are going to be caring for someone at home you’ll probably need to access telehealth (rather than face to face) support. Have you experienced it before? No. Practice with a friend or your local Neighbourhood House. It might be facetime, a zoom or simply a phone call. If you don’t get good reception or have access to a phone think about that now, or if you can’t change things, let your Doctor know if you are diagnosed. Tip: replace the batteries in your digital thermometer and if you can, buy an oximeter. Monitoring oxygen levels and temperatures will likely be part of your telehealth appointments.

You’ll also need a home management plan. Remember Wendy? When their daughter was diagnosed initially it was suggested that she be relocated to hotel-quarantine. For Wendy’s family this wasn’t going to work because of their daughter’s young age. Working with the medical staff they were able to develop a management plan in their own home. Here are a few practical tips for creating your own.

What does a home management plan look like?

Break it down into four parts and include a few basic assumptions. Assume that if your family are at home with COVID that their symptoms will be mild but will need to be constantly monitored for change. Assume that the number of people in your house who catch COVID might increase. Lastly, brace yourself for a long road but know that even if you feel alone, you aren’t.

So what are the four parts?

1. Think about your spaces. If you had one family member with COVID, how would they isolate? Where can they be completely alone and what spaces might they need to use that are shared? If there are shared spaces, keep them well ventilated and have sanitiser, disinfectant and wipes at the ready. What happens if it is multiple family members? Will that change what you do? TIP: Write it down or map it out. If you test COVID positive you just want to be able to take it off the shelf, not suddenly have to delve into your memory to work out what you planned!

2. Think about your COVID safe practices. What applies in public, applies two-fold at home. Wear masks whenever you are not alone or entering a shared space. Remain socially distanced (hard when you or your family are in tears) or use PPE (talk to your Doctor about this) if you need to touch someone because of their mental health or physical care. I know I can’t imagine not touching my family if they are ill, so this will be something I’ll be discussing with my Doctor if we are ever diagnosed. Remember information helps keep us safe and alleviates fear.

3. Talk about mental health. No one we’ve spoken to describes COVID as a walk in the park. You might be sick for two weeks, or still be feeling the impact 12 months later. You may end up in quarantine at home for months as the virus infects your whole family. Talking about what you might find most stressful will help you look out for warning signs and have some strategies in place when their most needed. TIP: Not all households have someone you can talk to about these sorts of issues. Your partner might not be receptive, or you might live alone. Remember it’s ok to ask for help. Neighbourhood Houses or services like the Ballarat Community Health Social Connections Program can discretely help you chat through your COVID plans.

4. Work out what support you might need. You can’t anticipate everything you might need, but chat with your friends to see they’ll be your ‘person’ if anything happens. Have a few friends so that you don’t over burden anyone or feel bad asking for help. Again, Neighbourhood Houses can come in handy here, linking you to support services that range from grocery delivery through to someone to just chat to on the phone.

UNICEF says that “The pandemic isn’t over until it is over for everyone” and experts agree that this virus could be with us for decades or longer. I wish this wasn't the case, but I suspect they are right. So a little preparation now, could save a lot of stress in the future.

…tomorrow's article: Building a Support Network.

This article is part of a 5-day series developed by the network of Neighbourhood Houses in Hepburn Shire (Trentham Neighbourhood Centre, Daylesford Neighbourhood Centre, Creswick Neighbourhood Centre and Clunes Neighbourhood House). The series will include an interview with a Victorian family who lived through the delta-strain. Each article is designed to help provide us with some insight into what living with COVID might mean and how individually – and together - we can prepare for it.

AUTHOR: Lana de Kort.

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