We are thrilled to welcome Annabel James, founder of AgeSpace, the online resource for anyone anxious about or caring for elderly parents and relatives ~ www.agespace.org ~ as a contributor. Each month she will be sharing her knowledge with us, including many useful tips on how to help the elderly. This post is written, from personal experience, about how to treat someone at home with Covid-19. In Annabel James’s case, it is her father and I am happy to say he is on the mend and we wish him a continuing speedy recovery.
Curiously, advice to treat someone with Covid-19 at home has been largely absent from the all-consuming discussions about the virus. Online and offline searches for guidance focus almost exclusively on how to avoid getting it in the first place. As the number of infections remains horrifyingly high, and the knowledge that the majority of us will not require hospitalisation, plus my own very recent personal experience caring for my dad, I have been inspired to seek out the best information on how to tread Covid at home.
It is important that should you or members of your family experience symptoms then first confirm a diagnosis of Covid by getting a test. With a positive diagnosis comes at least 10 days of isolation, so organise shopping and deliveries, medication, dog walking etc.
Symptoms of Covid vary widely from mild flu-like symptoms, to loss of taste and sense of smell, diarrhoea, a headache, sore throat or blocked nose; at the more serious end severe fatigue and breathlessness. The first fourteen days are the time to be most watchful, and in particular the end of the first week which is of most concern to medical experts.
The elderly and those with co-morbidities such as diabetes or obesity, are we know, more prone to Covid. If you’re worried about your elderly parents and relatives, then extra care should be taken to monitor their condition. If you don’t live with them, then checking in every day becomes even more important certainly during the first fourteen days after symptoms or a diagnosis.
Fortunately, for the vast majority, rest and paracetamol are the most effective ways to manage symptoms. There are however a number of other ‘things you can do’:
A new word in the pandemic lexicon this year. Some GP surgeries are starting to give out oximeters for patients to monitor oxygen levels at home. Falling oxygen levels and a rising resting pulse rate suggest a worsening of the disease, and in some cases may be the only sign of deterioration. You can buy an oximeter online or in a chemist/pharmacy; please follow the directions.
As we are all too aware, Covid-19 affects the lungs and breathing. Sleeping on your back enables fluid to collect in the lungs, so try to sleep on your side or on your front. During the day sit upright as much as you can to reduce pressure on the lungs. Steam inhalers, vaporisers or steam may help relieve congestion. Coughing and breathlessness can be exacerbated by heat so balancing keeping rooms cool enough with the winter weather outside can be a bit of a challenge.
Try and move around for a minimum of 15 minutes every couple of hours, no matter how tired or weak you feel. Make sure you move your arms around to open up your lungs.
The NHS recommends managing pain or a fever with paracetamol and/or ibuprofen. For cough and congestion relief, look for medicines containing Guaifenesin, an expectorant that helps clear the chest. It also has a soothing effect on the throat. If you’re taking other medication, always check with your GP or pharmacist before taking over the counter medicines.
It’s obvious but easy to ignore keeping hydrated, especially with a fever. Lots of water of course, but also energy drinks such as Lucozade which can help by replenishing electrolytes, carbohydrates and vitamins.
90% of probiotic Serotonin, the ‘happiness hormone,’ is produced in the gut so your mental health can be influenced by what you eat. Now more than ever, we need help to stay positive and consuming lots of good probiotic foods such as plain yogurt, apples, artichokes, onions, bananas and chicory can only help.
Read Age Space’s advice on Nutrition and Mental Health – click HERE.
If you are struggling to cook then you may find it easier to supplement your diet with vitamins. Vitamin C is an obvious addition, but you might also want to take Vitamin D which is well known as the sunshine vitamin, but has also been cited as one that may help reduce symptoms of Covid.
Dealing with Isolation
This might be one of the hardest aspects of contracting the virus whether you live alone or are barricaded in the spare room. Keep in touch with family and friends – but probably best not to have too many zoom calls, which even for the fittest amongst us become incredibly wearing extremely quickly.
Try not to count the days of isolation as this won’t make them go by any faster. If you can get outside in the garden however briefly will make you feel brighter. Rest and recuperation are key, so try and relax and even enjoy this period of time. Binge watching box sets (Bridgerton highly recommended), catching up on reading, or even projects still on the lockdown#1 to-do list such as photo albums.
Age Space has lots of useful advice on caring for elderly parents and relatives during the Coronavirus Pandemic – click HERE.
Caring for an elderly parent with Covid-19
Having recently emerged from 10 days isolating with my 85-year-old Covid positive Dad my advice includes industrial quantities of gloves, masks and even plastic aprons in the hope of avoiding the virus yourself. (Thus far I have had no symptoms, and am currently waiting for the results of a home test).
The most worrying element was simply not knowing what the trajectory of the disease might be. We monitored every one of those long days for any decline, microscopically investigating every cough, sneeze or other possible “symptom”. The isolation was the worst because no-one, not even the Doctor could visit, so trying to make the right decisions about Dad’s health was really troubling. Watching the news was not a good idea as it just frightened us both seeing pictures of overwhelmed ICUs and exhausted medical staff whilst we sat at home checking for worsening symptoms.
All in all, treating someone with Covid-19 at home is something of an oxymoron, as there is no real or specific treatment; rather it’s about prevention, in the form of the vaccine. Get in that queue as soon as you can!
Annabel James is founder of AgeSpace, the online resource for anyone anxious about or caring for elderly parents and relatives. www.agespace.org.