Caring for each other and managing transmission of Covid at home

In this section we explore experiences of caring, and being cared for at home, when people were ill with Covid. Home life was different depending on who people lived with, and how many people at home were unwell with Covid. People we spoke to had to make decisions about whether and how to socially distance from each other, how to care for each other if several people were sick, and how to get support if they lived alone.

The topics covered in this section are:

  • Caring for each other when some people had Covid, and others didn’t
  • Caring for each other when everyone was ill
  • Living alone and getting care

Caring for each other when some people had Covid and others didn’t

Some of the people we spoke to were living with others when they got ill. In situations where not everyone in the household had Covid, people had to make decisions about whether to minimise transmission and socially distance from one another. Aytana found entirely isolating from each other at home hard, because she was still ‘going to the person to give them medication, to give them food, because obviously you need to check up on them.’ Sonal would leave food on a table outside her son’s door for him to collect. Milembe and Sarita wore masks at home to minimise transmission, and Paul kept windows open to improve the flow of fresh air.

Sarita was so used to wearing her mask at home that she accidentally tried to drink coffee through it.

Irene found socially distancing at home quite easy because her and her son had their own room. Laurie had ‘kitted out the spare room’ to make a ‘quarantine space’ in case someone got sick. Isolating from each other was harder when there was less space. Fahmida’s home has three rooms which made it difficult for her to isolate entirely from the people she lived with.

Even if it was possible to have separate bedrooms, use of other shared space had to be negotiated. In Beth’s house they did ‘rotas for who can go to the toilet and who can have food’. Zubair had a second toilet and shower in his house, which helped him to isolate from his wife.

Mahabuba and her family separated as much as possible while some of them were ill.

Milembe found it difficult to isolate from her family at home

Zubair reflected on the challenge faced by people trying to isolate in overcrowded homes.

Social distancing at home didn’t work for everyone. Some people we spoke to found isolating from each other at home too difficult or decided not to try.

Jessica thought it might be better if her husband and son got Covid from her so they could isolate together

It was particularly difficult to socially distance while trying to deliver care to people who were ill with Covid. Elvis and Sue both had parents who needed a lot of hands-on care. They decided it was important to look after them despite the risks [see Caring at a distance].

Jaswinder was worried about her daughter and cared for her while she was sick despite infection risk.

Isolating from people they cared about at home was distressing for many people we spoke to. Samena was upset about keeping her children isolated from one another. Abdul could sometimes hear his daughter crying out for him while he was in the spare room, which he found ‘heart-breaking’.

Sarita spent a few days isolating until she was reunited with her loved ones as ‘one big happy family’ because everyone tested positive.

Caring for each other when everyone had Covid

In some households multiple people had Covid at the same time. Some people we spoke to found this easier, because everyone having Covid meant that social distancing was less important. For others, caring for each other was harder when multiple people were unwell. Usually, the person who was least ill would look after everyone else.

Everyone in Gulsoom’s family was trying to nurse each other despite being very ill.

Susanne described taking care of her family when everyone was sick ‘like running a ward but being ill yourself’.

Living alone and getting care

Some people we spoke to lived alone, which meant they did not have to worry about transmission to other people within the home. Some aspects of their isolation period were easier because they were able to carry on their everyday activities.

Sam X was able to carry on as normal when she was ill rather than be stuck in her bedroom.

For people we spoke to who had been very ill, caring for themselves at home was difficult. They had to rely on additional support from friends, family or local support services. Sue had a few days where she felt unwell and felt lucky to have her sister and friend to drop off supplies. Lyn was worried about caring for herself at home but was able to get food and medicine through the global Malaysian network.

Lyn lives alone and relied on support from family abroad and from the Malaysian diaspora in the UK.