Ready or Not #149: Quarantine Sick Family Members

What if family member gets sick?  I know, it’s a lousy question, but we have to face reality.  If the anticipated 30% of the population gets sick during a pandemic, then chances are, somebody in your family is going to get sick – and the bigger the family, the bigger the chances.  So what should you do with the sickie?  Quarantine them of course.

My dear friend, Connie, has a large family and she has had her fair share of a sick spouse and sick kids.  So what does she do to keep the sick person from infecting the entire family, one by one until she is utterly exhausted and ends up getting sick herself?  You are right, she quarantines them.

Fortunately for her and her family, she has a small room in her basement that she has turned into the “sick room.”  Any time any one in the family comes home with the sniffles or a fever, she takes them to the sick room and it is completely off limits to everyone but her.  She feeds them, cares for them and provides entertainment and keeps the room as sterile as possible.  She also makes sure that when she leaves the room, she washes her hands and disinfects as much as possible so that she won’t spread the sickness.

This strategy has served her very well for many years and has also helped to keep her family well.

Quarantining a sick person has been around for many years and there has been several times that governmental health agencies have quarantined houses and parts of communities where the inhabitants were infected with a very serious virus or other diseases.  This was an effort to contain the sick people and keep others from getting sick – or even have it spread to pandemic proportions.  SARS and the Avian Flu virus are the two latest viruses where people were quarantines, and, for the most part, the quarantines were pretty effective.

At a more personal/family level, we should do the same thing – just like my friend, Connie.  First, we need to designate one person as a caregiver – that will usually be the mom, but not always (after all, I have been sick before and my family had to take care of me). It would be a good idea to teach everyone in the family how to take care of a sick person.  Everyone needs to know how to administer the correct dosage of medicines,  how to take a temperature and what the numbers mean.  They need to know the kind of foods that are appropriate for a sick person to eat and it is really important that they make sure that the sick person drinks A LOT OF WATER.

I remember when I was a pre-teen, my whole family got sick except my dad.  He had to take care of everyone and he was quite militant about us keeping hydrated.  He brought us each a Mason jar filled with water for us to drink every hour or so.  We were left on our honor to finish it on our own until my dad found out that my brother was pouring his water down the furnace heat register.  After that he stood and watched while we drank the whole quart jar filled to the top with water.  I know that water doesn’t always taste really good when you’re sick, but it is a vital part of getting well.

Keep personal items separate.  Don’t let the sick person’s toothbrush be next to everybody else’s toothbrush and make sure that the sick person uses a different tube of toothpaste.  If possible, even set up a different bathroom for them to use so that the sickness can even be better contained.

Use very hot water to wash dishes and clothes.  I consider my dishwashers my personal dish sanitizing station.  Make sure that you dry the dishes with Heat Dry and not the Air Dry.  I do this whether we are sick or not because I like the idea that my dishes have been sanitized; the small amount of electricity that it uses is worth it.  Wash the sick person’s clothes in hot water and use chlorine bleach when possible and keep their items separate from the rest of the family’s clothes.  Wear disposable gloves when you are caring for somebody that is sick and you can also wear gloves if you feel at risk or when you go out in public.

Like I talked about earlier, it is important to know how to care for somebody that is sick, especially if his or her lungs are affected.  If you can, take a evening course or get some schooling and get some nursing or basic first-aid skills.  Life will be so much more manageable and easier if there are people in your house that can take care of those that are ill.  Even if that person gets ill, they can still share their knowledge with those trying to do the care-taking.

Be aware of those individuals you know who are homebound and all of their needs before the pandemic strikes.  Do they need special care such as specialized help with medical equipment, OTC or prescription medications, and/or meals that need to be delivered?

If you will think back about the last time you were ill, not only will you remember how miserable you were, but also how bored silly you were.  When you set up your quarantine room, put in a small TV that can play DVD’s and possibly play video games.  You can give children toys to play with, but only allow toys that can be washed in the washer or sterilized.  You might even consider getting some coloring books or paperback books that you can throw away after they get well.

Make the room as easy to sterilize as you can.  If you don’t have an extra room that can be made into a quarantine room, you will have to use their bedroom instead.  If siblings share a room, make the healthy one move out and bunk with somebody else.  If you can, be very sparse in decorating and don’t decorate with items that can’t be sterilized after the sick person gets well.  You might even consider removing the carpet and replacing it with a wood floor, tile, or vinyl flooring.  You can put a rug down next to the bed so the floor won’t be cold on their feet, but make sure that it is a rug that can be thrown into the washer.  I won’t be removing my carpet any time soon, but some people might want to.

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