Frequently Asked Questions: Family Caregivers and COVID-19

1. What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is an infection caused by a virus. The virus appeared for the first time at the end of 2019 and now has spread throughout the world.

2. Why is there so much concern about COVID-19?

There is no vaccine or treatment for COVID-19. Although most people who get infected have an illness that is like a cold or the flu, a small number have a more severe illness, which can be life-threatening. Severe illness is more likely in older people and those with conditions like diabetes.

3. How does a person know if he or she has COVID-19?

If a person feels feverish or the temperature taken with a thermometer is above 100.40, or he or she has a cough, sore throat or shortness of breath, he or she may have COVID-19.

4. How does the disease spread?

A person can spread COVID-19 through coughs or sneezes that spray and reach another person’s face. A person 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.

5. What am I trying to do as a caregiver?

As a caregiver, you want to do THREE things. First, you want to protect yourself from getting the virus. Second, you want to take care of your family member if he or she develops COVID-19. Third, you want to determine whether you may be getting COVID-19, and if you are, you want to take care of yourself and take precautions so that you won’t spread the virus to others.

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

These are the things that are recommended for everyone:

  • Social distancing—stay 6 feet away from other people.
  • Hand washing—wash your hands frequently, particularly if you are outdoors. When you wash your hands, 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 hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol; rub all the surfaces of your hands until they are dry.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Do not share cups, plates, utensils or towels with anyone else.

7. 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 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.
  • New York State also has stated some specific rules—called “Matilda’s Law”—that apply to your family member.
    • Remain indoors, do not visit households with multiple people, go outside only for solitary exercise, and do not take public transportation unless absolutely necessary.
    • Your family member should always stay at least six feet away from others, if possible;
    • In addition to the questions about symptoms, try to screen all visitors and aides by taking their temperature (they should not come into your home if it is above 100.40);
    • Your family member should wear a facemask when in the company of others, if possible, and to the greatest extent possible, everyone nearby also should wear a mask;

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

  • If your family member becomes sick, you should do the following:
  • Have the person stay in one room, away from you and other people as much as possible; if possible, have them use a separate bathroom.
  • Do not share cups, plates, utensils or towels.
  • If facemasks are available, have them wear a facemask when others are nearby, and you should wear one while in the same room.
  • Tissues are for coughing or sneezing, and they should be discarded in a plastic bag
  • If the person is able to wash his or her hands, or use hand sanitizer, this should be done.
  • You should also frequently wash your hands or use hand sanitizer if you can’t wash.
  • Every day, you should clean counters, tabletops, and doorknobs with a household cleaner.
  • If laundry is soiled, wear disposable gloves and keep the soiled items away from your body. Wash your hands immediately after removing gloves.
  • Keep visitors away from your family member.
  • Make sure the sick person drinks a lot of fluids and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen (Tylenol®) can be used for fever and pain.
  • Take the temperature of the person who is sick every day, before giving medicine for fever.
  • Contact your physician and seek help if 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 treating your family member as an active COVID-19 infection when he or she 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.

9. What should I do to determine whether I am getting COVID-19?

Because COVID-19 can be mild, you should “self-monitor” every day. This means being aware of the way you feel so that you can realize that you may be carrying the infection even if you don’t have many symptoms.

  • If you feel feverish, or you have a sore throat or cough, or some shortness of breath, you may have COVID-19.
  • Another thing you can do is to take your temperature once a day; if it is above 100.4º, you may have the disease.

10. What should I do if I think that I may have COVID-19?

If you become sick, or you think that you may be getting sick, do not leave your house and stay away from others, including those in your family.

  • Everything described in Number 8 above applies to you, if you become sick.