Impact of being ill with Covid on everyday life at home

In this section we explore the impact that being ill with Covid had on everyday life at home.

When someone within a household had Covid this meant tasks like shopping, cooking, cleaning and caring were more difficult. For some people we spoke to this was because of a mix of feeling quite ill while also trying to minimise transmission to other people. At different times during the pandemic there have been different rules about isolating, which sometimes meant whole households had to isolate. At other times only people who were Covid positive were encouraged to isolate.

Topics in this section include:

  • Getting food and medicine
  • Managing everyday household tasks
  • Caring for children and pets while ill
  • Experiences of isolation for people who weren’t unwell

Getting food and medicine

At times during the pandemic, if one person had Covid, the whole household was expected to isolate at home. During these periods, shopping for food and picking up medicines was very difficult. How to get things from outside was a worry when people found out they had Covid.

Dorte asked herself ‘how do we get food into the house?’ when she found out that she had to isolate.

Most people we spoke to relied on support from friends, family, and neighbours to help with shopping. Mandy’s daughter lived locally and brought food around. Beth’s uncle brought her family supplies, and they also got support from a local church group. Sally and Rick explained how ‘everyone was looking out for everyone’ on their street. Helen was grateful that she lived in a close community and had people who could bring what she needed to her doorstep.

Online shopping services were also popular. Genevieve was used to doing shopping online, but for Dorte it was the first time she had used home delivery. Some pharmacies also offered delivery services for medicines. June found online shopping helpful but was frustrated about the extra cost of rapid delivery while she was ill.

Sam X was living alone while she was ill. Her friends sent her a care package, and she also did her shopping online.

Zubair used a pharmacy delivery service to get medications and received his prescriptions very quickly.

Even though isolating was sometimes hard, getting help from others often created a feeling of connection. Aytana said, ‘It’s a warm feeling that people cared’. Milembe would often wave through the window at friends dropping off shopping and talk to them on the phone. Esther felt ‘how much everyone loves you’ through the help she received while she was isolating.

Guidance about isolating at home changed across the pandemic. For some people we spoke to, they were ill at times when only people who were Covid positive had to isolate. This meant if they lived with other people who were negative those people could do the shopping.

Gwilym was the first out of isolation in his household when he tested negative but was exhausted doing the weekly shop.

Not everyone we spoke to had relationships locally with people who could help them while they were isolating. This made it harder to get the support they needed.

Sunita didn’t have friends or family in the local area who could help her. Her father-in-law travelled a long way to bring her food.

For some there was support available within community services for people who were struggling to access food and medicine while isolating. The support offered was different depending on where people lived and at what stage of the pandemic they got ill.

Rabbi Wollenberg got Covid at the beginning of the pandemic. He remembered there wasn’t a lot of support locally while he was isolating, although he got help with shopping from friends and family. Sue didn’t have to call on local volunteers to get food or medicines for her, but she felt reassured that they were there ‘if the worst came to the worst’.

Sue lives alone but wasn’t worried because her sister and a friend helped with shopping and she knew of extra support within the community.

Some people we spoke to were disappointed by the Covid support that was offered to them from community organisations. Surindar was frustrated that she couldn’t get the help she needed at the right time because the organisation she contacted was overwhelmed. She eventually got a follow-up call two weeks after she’d had Covid, but it was too late.

Mahabuba called a local helpline advertised on TV but was disappointed that they did not call her back.

Lyn lives alone and struggled to get the support she needed. She got sent an emergency food box but it wasn’t appropriate for her diet.

Managing everyday tasks

Everyday activities like cooking and cleaning were also harder if Covid made people feel very unwell. It was challenging if multiple people in a household were sick, particularly if one member had specific responsibilities that others didn’t usually do. Mahabuba was pleased that she could rely on her children to take on additional responsibilities to prepare food. Sarita described how her son had to show her husband how to use the dishwasher while she was ill.

Matt and his partner took it in turns to care for each other and do household tasks while they were both ill.

Caring for children and pets

People with children sometimes struggled to care for them alone while they were ill. Samena had help getting food into the house but other tasks were still difficult, like preparing meals and bathing her kids. If a household was isolating this meant that nobody could come in to care for children, and also that children couldn’t leave the house to attend school or stay with other people. Sarita felt guilty that she was too sick to play with her children or help them with homework. Sindhu was relieved that her husband was not sick with Covid because she was so ‘drained out’ by illness.

Making sure that pets were cared for was also a concern for people we spoke with. One of the first thoughts in Dorte’s mind when she found out she had Covid was ‘how do we walk the dog?’. In these situations, help often came from family members living elsewhere, who took on responsibility for pets while their owners were unwell. For Susanne it was a ‘lifesaver’ that she didn’t have to worry about having to look after her dog.

Helen’s daughter came to collect the dog when Helen and her son were too ill to look after it.

Experiences of isolation for people who weren’t unwell

Some people we spoke to had no symptoms at all, or the symptoms they had were not difficult to live with. For these people continuing everyday life was easy. What was frustrating was having to isolate while they felt well. Laszlo, who had been very ill himself, recognised that people with mild symptoms might feel Covid was ‘simply something that stopped them from carrying on with their normal lives’.

Elvis felt 100% fine when he had Covid. He was bored isolating alone at home, wishing he could do his normal activities.