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Covid-19 in the community

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.

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

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And look I think though, what I started doing which I found very difficult was that I was putting on a mask in the house 24/7. Because I did not even by accident want to pass it on so I would you know only take it off when eating and whilst I was sleeping but other than that even when I got up to go to the toilet I would just have, I had my mask on most of the times. Yeah so not, not pleasant. Ended up, ended up trying to drink a cup of coffee and I didn’t realise I had my mask on [laughing].


 
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.

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

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We’ve got just only two bedroom and one sitting and so she come down to that sofa on sofa I’m sitting down now. She, my daughter, sit down on that sofa. I stay on this sofa, my husband in the room and my other two daughter in two beds and I give them whatever, a small towel and that’s everyone separate towels. What I can do is that way.

 

Milembe found it difficult to isolate from her family at home

Milembe found it difficult to isolate from her family at home

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You want to go to the bathroom or the kitchen you have say, “Hey, I’m coming so just stay away,” and so even that in itself, the management of having one, even one person in the household you don’t think about it. It’s just actually very, very difficult to feel that you can actually be, you know, infecting other person within your house, so not only now you’re worried about yourself, now you’re worried about you passing it on to someone else.

 

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

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

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That is an issue with, like, you know, living, you know, BAME community. The households, they are obviously sometimes are overcrowded, mostly, so… And in my case, it isn’t so. You know, but if anybody else would, if it’s overcrowded you get more sick, obviously other people get sick as well so, that does affect everyone else. And then they can’t self-isolate any more, you know, because they haven’t got anywhere to self-isolate.


 
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.
 
 

Rabbi Wollenberg found isolating from his family impractical.

Rabbi Wollenberg found isolating from his family impractical.

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I did not manage to isolate from my family. I’m not sure I really even tried. I mean I was basically in my room the whole time, but you know. I didn’t sort of, have my own bathroom or kind of physically isolated from people, but nobody else caught it from me as far as we know.

 

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

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

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I didn't feel all that concerned if they got it, and in a way, I thought it was better if they did because then they'd be unlikely to get it again at another point. And I thought... sort of thought the sooner the better because if they get symptoms later on in our ten day isolation, they're going to have to isolate for another ten days while I go back to work and desert them; they're going to hate me even more [laughs].


 
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]. 
 

Fahmida tried to isolate but needed support from her husband as her symptoms got worse.

Fahmida tried to isolate but needed support from her husband as her symptoms got worse.

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My husband and my children looked after me. A lot. like I’m in my room but my husband go there every time said, he said don’t worry I want to come here and to look after you. But I said you can go, you can go but he said no.

They worried for me, they, it was night time my husband was waking up so many times said he came to my home, my bedroom and he ask me you are okay, you are okay. Because I am vomiting a lot, sometimes I run to the bathroom and he helped me, sometimes I, he helped me a lot. Sometime I can’t stand up for myself.

 

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

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

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My husband said we will shift her to one room, and I looked after her, gave her food and water. But being a mother, somewhere in me I wanted, I wanted to be close to her. 
 
I heard people lose their breath with this people become ‘out of breath’ so and she is 14 years old right now. 
 
So, I insisted with my husband “No, please allow me to sleep in the same room. We’ll sleep at some distance from each other, right?”, And then, no then, my husband told me that I also have young child, he is, my boy is around eight or nine and my husband told me that, “no everyone else will also get infected, so better to take some precaution”.
 
So, we did that. She recovered in four days, five days later, Then after a gap of two days, my turn came (laughs). Then two days after me, my husband got it and other child also got infected. I mean the whole family got it.
 
My daughter had become a bit active, And she is young, so it did not affect her that much, she had temperature for two days, She had a headache but there wasn’t much flu or anything. She had a slight cough, but even that went away.
 
So, she took care of us, like she brought us offered us water, medicines to the bed, bless her the food would come from outside, with the help of friends, that is how it went along, for 22 days.

 


 
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.

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

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We would try at least for the first 5 days when we didn’t know they were positive as well. I would just try and make sure that I would, I think what we used to do is that they would have a shower first, they would use the bathroom because we only had one bathroom upstairs. They would just use the bathroom first and then in the, I would go late. I would go last and then after I would finish my shower and my other things you know I would just clean it down as much as I could and then absolutely we would just try not be in the same, in the same room. So, like you know if I were in the kitchen just getting something for myself they would just stay away or most of the time he would come and leave everything for me, you know by the door. But again that was, I think that happened for the first 2 to 3 days and then yeah, I by I think by Friday or Saturday we were all one big happy family, where we were [Laughs]. There was no point in self-isolating against each other because we were all, we had all 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.

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

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We were trying to help each other but we were all so ill ourselves. And I think because we all got Covid, no one was able to really like, I know we had close friends and maybe people dropping things off at the door but because there was so much of us ill, we tried to nurse each other.

 

Esther described her and her girlfriend caring for each other as ‘the blind leading the blind’.

Esther described her and her girlfriend caring for each other as ‘the blind leading the blind’.

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It was kind of, it was a bit like you know, when you’re really, really drunk and you on, when you’re on a night out and someone who’s really drunk is looking after someone who’s even more drunk than that person. It was a bit like that where it was kind of blind leading the blind and like trying to look after each other.

 

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

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

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There we were again, battling it again and I would say that this time was, you know, in terms of kind of managing it at home, it was a lot harder because all five of us were down with it at the same time. So, I was literally well [name], my husband got it last, so he was doing all the kind of meals and bringing them up to the children and myself. And then when I got it, you know, it was a case of, sorry when he got it, it was a case of, you know, literally going round all of the bedrooms, taking everyone’s temperatures. Then doing a Calpol run, then doing a fluids run, then doing the meals, then back to bed or whatever, you know, it was, it was like running a ward but being ill yourself, you know.

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.

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

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Both my friends had family that they tried to isolate from so stick in their bedrooms and keep some distance. Luckily, their family didn’t get infected. And I was just on my own so like normal. Just having to watch lots of movies and try and ignore, trying to wait for it to finish, I guess.


 
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.

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

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I’m only blessed because my niece is a Director of Emergency Medicines in the US so somebody who is quite bright so that’s a good one, just happen to be luck. And the lady, Chinese doctor, happens to be on the global Malaysian network, which actually, she offered to help me so, basically, I am blessed. I’ve got people helping me because, as I say, I don’t know what to do. The doctors, they don’t take me to hospital. They left me at home with only rest, drink fluid, vitamin C, what else can I do? I’ve got no nurse helping me. I’m sick but not sick enough to go in. So I’ve got to find an avenue.


 

 

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