Frequently Asked Questions: Family Caregivers and COVID-19

What is COVID-19?

The virus causing COVID-19 appeared for the first time at the end of 2019 and now has spread throughout the world.  Recently, a new strain of the virus, called the Delta variant, has appeared and is at least 50% more transmissible.  It is now the cause of most new infections in the U.S.

Why is there so much concern about COVID-19, particularly the new Delta strain?

Some adults and children who get COVID-19 have severe infections and require hospitalization.  More than 600,000 Americans have died from the illness.  At the present time, it is the unvaccinated population that continues to be at risk of these serious infections.  As the Delta variant quickly spreads through the unvaccinated population, we will continue to have these tragic outcomes.  Most vaccinated people are protected from COVID, including the Delta variant, or they experience mild illness.  Get vaccinated now if you haven’t already. Vaccination works

How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 can be spread by people who are sick and also by people who have the infection but do not know it.  Anyone infected can spread COVID-19 through coughs or sneezes that spray and reach another person’s face. A person also can catch the virus if he or she touches an object that was contaminated by someone with COVID-19, and then touches his or her face.

What am I trying to do as a caregiver?

As a caregiver, you want to do several things. First, get vaccinated to protect yourself and the people you care for from getting the virus. Second, encourage those you care for to get vaccinated.  Third, take care of your family member if he or she develops COVID-19 and make sure that he or she is quarantined so that the chance of infecting others is low.  Fourth, if you think that you may be getting COVID-19 or someone you care for is getting COVID-19, get testing promptly.

What should I do to reduce my chances of being infected?

Although things have improved, there are some important recommendations:

  • Get vaccinated if you haven’t already. This is the best way to protect yourself from serious illness, hospitalization, and death.
    • Nearly all hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 are among unvaccinated individuals
  • Consider wearing a mask if you are inside and in close proximity to large groups of people.
  • Unless you are in a small group of vaccinated people, try to socially distance—stay 6 feet away from other people. Also, don’t share cups, plates, utensils, or towels with anyone else.
  • Hand washing—wash your hands frequently, and when you wash, use soap and rub all the surfaces for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use hand sanitizer if you can’t wash your hands with soap and water—use sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol; rub all the surfaces of your hands until they are dry.

What should I do to reduce the chance that my family member will catch COVID-19

  • Before you let other people visit your home, you should determine whether they have been vaccinated or if they might be sick.
  • Ask visitors whether they feel feverish or have a cough, sore throat, or shortness of breath. If the answer is yes, they should go home and stay away from other people.
    • Visitors who have not been vaccinated should wear a facemask when in the company of others. This is particularly true when inside.
    • If not vaccinated, your family member should stay at least six feet away from others, if possible.

What should I do if I or my family member has COVID-19?

If you or your family member becomes sick, you should do the following:

  • The person who is ill should stay in one room, away from others as much as possible; use a separate bathroom, if possible
  • Do not share cups, plates, utensils, or towels.
  • Everyone in the house should wear a facemask when others are nearby.
  • Tissues are for coughing or sneezing, and they should be discarded in a plastic bag
  • Everyone in the house should wash his or her hands frequently, or use hand sanitizer if washing cannot be done.
  • Every day, someone should clean counters, tabletops, and doorknobs with a household cleaner.
  • If laundry used by the ill person needs washing, the person doing this should wear disposable gloves and wash his or her hands immediately after removing gloves.
  • There should be no visitors unless they are professionals who arrive to monitor or help.
  • The person who is ill should drink a lot of fluids and take over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen (Tylenol®) for fever and pain.
  • The temperature of the ill person should be taken twice a day, before giving medicine for fever.
  • Contact your physician and seek help if you or your family member is developing worsening symptoms, such as high fever or shortness of breath; go to the hospital’s emergency room only if a doctor recommends it or the sick person is becoming very ill.
  • For most people, COVID-19 lasts a week or two. You can stop these precautions when the ill person has had no fever for 3 days without using medicines for fever AND other symptoms, like cough, are getting better AND at least 1 week has passed since the symptoms began.