Life is already challenging for my 85-year-old client, Sam, who moves around slowly, with aches and pains, to complete his daily routine. He lives in his daughter’s home and has a bedroom on the main level so he does not have to go up and down the stairs. His daughter’s husband Bob, works long hours but is helpful and kind to Sam.
Sam uses a walker to get around the house and always when he goes outside. He is independent with his own bathing, dressing, and personal hygiene, but is reliant upon the family for shopping, cooking, medication, taking him to the doctor, paying bills, laundry and housekeeping.
Everything was going fairly well until his son-in-law unknowingly brought the coronavirus home. After Sam developed symptoms of coronavirus Bob was tested and even though he did not have any symptoms his test was positive. Sam had classic symptoms: fever, a persistent dry cough, and fatigue.
Gratefully he did not develop more severe symptoms such as shortness of breath or persistent pressure in the chest. A phone call to the doctor helped the family to know it was not time to go to the hospital. They learned they should only call 911 if Sam exhibited difficulty breathing, confusion, or difficulty waking up which could indicate a lack of oxygen. They got a pulse oximeter that clips to the finger to check Sam’s blood oxygen level for their peace of mind. They monitored his temperature and treated his fever and muscle aches with Tylenol. He did not have some, less distinct symptoms of COVID-19, such as back pain, gastrointestinal upset, headaches, or dizziness.
The family reached out to me, Sam’s care manager, to get further guidance to help the family care for Sam while they wrestled with COVID-19.
I reminded them that the spread of COVID-19 occurs between people who are in close contact (within 6 -13 feet) through respiratory droplets, created when someone talks, coughs, or sneezes. Protective measures, including social distancing, were established quickly.
The precautions Sam’s family took to protect everyone in their home included:
- In addition to his bedroom, he had a separate bathroom.
- Family contact with Sam was limited and no outside visitors were allowed.
- They cleaned and disinfected “high-touch” surfaces and items used every day including table, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks, and electronics.
During the course of the illness, I continued to teach and reinforce good infection control measures in order to protect them from getting sick, too. I reminded them to make sure everyone washed their hands often, avoided touching their eyes, mouth, and nose, wore masks and gloves in Sam’s room, and to frequently clean and disinfect surfaces throughout the house. No one shared the use of a phone or computer with Sam.
Sam wore a mask when anyone was in his room. He ate on dishes and used cutlery set aside for him that was cleaned separately in hot water or in the dishwasher. His bedding was laundered separately and in hot water. His daughter used gloves when she handled his dishes and laundry or touched the surfaces in the room. The family washed their hands before they went into his room when they left they removed gloves and washed their hands again.
Sam was encouraged to drink fluids to keep him hydrated, his meals were brought to him in his room.
I helped Sam’s family problem-solve outcomes for various situations. Initially, they had many questions and concerns but over time they became more comfortable with the mechanics of following the CDC Guidelines, applying them to Sam’s care in their home.
Protecting against COVID-19 significantly changed the way the family lived, but in the end, Sam made a full recovery at home and avoided the hospital. They have a heightened awareness and will use precautionary measures to avoid COVID-19 and other airborne illnesses going forward.
Before going to the hospital check with your doctor or emergency room and tell them the symptoms before going. They will tell you what to do.
All information is based upon CDC guidelines