Editor’s note: This article was published on January 4, 2020. COVID-19 information and recommendations are subject to change. For the most up-to-date information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website or view our most recent COVID-19 blog posts.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the country, it is becoming more and more common for people to know multiple friends or family members who have tested positive for the virus. It can be hard to know what to say or do when a loved one is going through such a difficult time.
With that in mind, Marshfield Clinic Health System psychiatrist Dr. Trixie Lipke gave her insight on ways you can lend a hand with your words and your actions.
Be there (safely) to support them
After an individual tests positive for COVID-19, there are plenty of concerns that may weigh on their mind. Common worries include:
- How am I going to take care of everything?
- What do I do with the kids?
- What happens if I get really sick?
- What next steps do I take?
Lipke notes that there are plenty of ways that family and friends can show their support while staying safe.
“Ask if you can do anything to reduce their worry and responsibility,” said Lipke. “Help them with chores by picking up their mail, groceries or taking care of yard work.”
Sometimes it can be as simple as lending a (virtual) ear over the phone. “Listen if they simply want to talk,” Lipke said. “Knowing someone cares and is there for you makes a huge difference.”
Offer up an escape
One great way to provide an escape for your friend or family member is by joining them in some of their favorite activities.
- Have a movie night. If they are up for it, you and your loved one can always choose to watch your favorite movie or show – virtually. Lipke notes that there are programs like Teleparty (on Google Chrome browsers), which allow you to synchronize video playback across households and have fun group chat features.
- Face off in some online board games. Virtual board games are often free, offer an immediate chat connection and are a great way to connect. Tabletopia is one easy-to-use option.
- Lipke adds that low-tech solutions are always appreciated as well. “If you live nearby, offering a meal and leaving it on their doorstep gives them healthy nutrition, comfort and safe human connection,” she said. “Pick up the phone and call them, or even text them just to say ‘hi.’”
Don’t put too much on your plate
Although it will be natural to want to help as much as you can, Lipke stresses making sure you don’t overwhelm yourself.
“Just like any emergency, you must keep yourself functioning so you can give quality care for your loved one,” she explained. “Keep meeting your basic human needs by getting proper sleep, eating regular meals and finding time for yourself.
Lipke recommends picking one task you enjoy and are able to take on for the next few weeks.
“Pick a task, a day of the week, and a specific time,” she said. “This will make it easier on the family and easier on you.”