A-Z

Covid-19 in the community

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.

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

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It’s only us two in the house and we don’t normally have home deliveries of any kind. So all of a sudden, it’s okay, how do we get food into the house? How do we survive? We have a dog so how do we walk the dog? [laughs]. It was all of those kind of questions that we thought, oh dear. How do we manage this?


 
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.

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

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My friends, bless them, sent me a care package of medication. That arrived on Wednesday I think it was and that was a life saver. I was able, because I live in the city, I was able to order stuff to be sent to me within a short time frame.

 

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

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

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So, the pharmacy they have a service, they deliver to you if you’re not well. So, they did that actually for my medication, normal medications, for the whole family they did that, for quite a while, so if we need any medications, your GP will send that to the pharmacy, and then you ring the pharmacy up. They will deliver either same day or next day. Very good service.


 
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.
 
 

Esther felt loved by the support she had from friends and family while she and her partner were isolating together.

Esther felt loved by the support she had from friends and family while she and her partner were isolating together.

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So, what was quite, what was actually really amazing was that there were quite a lot of people who kind of brought things which was quite nice [laughs]. And so, because of and so you know, it wasn’t like we were reliant on anyone to bring us food or anything like that. And we did, we did like a big Sainsbury’s home delivery order and stuff like that. I mean, not that I ate anything. But friends from a variety of backgrounds like you know, friends who I grew up with. Family who like live round the corner. More recent friends, you know, they were all, kind of dropped off soup and treats. And my aunt sent like a box of some nice biscuits as well, which was nice. And my partner’s parents sent like a big hamper of baked goods as well. It was all like we were unbelievably lucky. It’s kind of, it’s actually really amazing there’s nothing like being really, really ill to you know, know how much everyone loves you, basically [laughs].

 

Fahmida felt very lucky to have support from friends and family in her neighbourhood.

Fahmida felt very lucky to have support from friends and family in her neighbourhood.

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Okay, but another thing is when I got Covid in my family, in my neighbourhood, my friend they supported me a lot, this is my one very big thing and also they cook for me. They’re doing shopping for me because we are isolated in 14 days. My husband and my children, they didn’t go into the school, but they supported me a lot. People call me all the time what I need? Or they do cooking for me, or this, they do everything for me, I’m very lucky.


 
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.

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

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So, by the Monday, obviously, they were stuck in the house. We’d come back from holiday and so I had to go out and do the weekly shop [laughs]. And that was quite an experience. I went to Tesco, and it took me about an hour. I had a full trolley, coming to the checkout and while I was at the trolley and the checkout person was taking, you know, collecting all the things I was just leaning on the trolley because I could barely stand, you know, I was so weak. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

 


 
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.

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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.

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I remember my father-in-law, who is from [place], having to go to the supermarket and what do you call it, bringing us some food because we didn’t have any family in [place] or any friends that we could call on really.


 
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.

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.

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So, a friend brought some shopping round. My sister brought some shopping round and we had a conversation through the window, and I had, I had been taking shopping round to a friend and to my mum as well during lockdown. A friend who was decided, had decided to shield and things so and I think fortunately I didn’t have to use the service but a wonderful a wonderful kind of, which I think has happened all over the country, so voluntary organisation started up where volunteers were collecting people’s prescriptions, getting their food, checking on them. All that kind of thing which a friend’s family is involved in, so I knew that if the worst came to the worst, well I had offers of people to bring me food anyway so that wasn’t an issue which was, which was good.


 
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.

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

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Oh, we call for Covid-19 help because we don’t want to ask for anyone help so we just, because we just see on the TV you can get help. You can get this and so, you know, sometimes when you related to another social network you get the thing as well, you get the thing for number. We call them for help and that thing. The second day, because we need to buy milk and that, they say, okay, they will call us. Third day, fourth day, we didn’t get any call from them. We didn’t get any help. So, it just gone like a what we see in the news, just like total waste, total waste for us because we didn’t get anyone help.

 

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.

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.

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So that was a problem because I couldn’t eat people’s emergency food box. Consideration needs to be done in terms of like the choice of dietary requirement of an Asian person because we eat things like more noodles, rice, tofu, fresh vegetables, fresh fruits. This is what I usually eat. So I had problem getting slot, of even getting food delivered but, thank god, some kind, nice people helped me.

 
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.

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

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We were just as grumpy as each other, that’s okay [laughs]. I mean, we are pretty good at taking turns at everything, so you just, we, we take turns of, providing we’re both home. One of us cooks one day, the other the next, just always. So, everything, we’re already, we’re totally used to sharing everything 50% anyway. So, we just carried on doing that, ‘cos we were both sick, you know. Neither of us had any great appetite, so it’s not as if it was a huge demand or share for the washer upper.

 

Rabbi Wollenberg’s family were very capable of taking on additional chores while he was sick with Covid.

Rabbi Wollenberg’s family were very capable of taking on additional chores while he was sick with Covid.

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But my family were very good, they stepped up, they all helped out with things. I basically stayed out of the way. I think on occasions I did venture out of my bedroom, and I was basically just it was just basically a nuisance because I had no energy and so I was sort of out of it and like I would say, “Is someone doing the dishes?” And they’d be like, “How do you think we’ve been managing for the past two weeks? Don’t worry” Or whatever it was, so I think, I think it was a very strange experience. I was sort of operating at a different pace from everyone else. But yeah, it was just very strange being out of action, but I just had no energy.

 
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.
 

 

Noam and Tamar found it difficult that nobody could come into their house to help with their kids while they were both ill.

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Noam and Tamar found it difficult that nobody could come into their house to help with their kids while they were both ill.

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Noam: So, it’s, it’s actually difficult well the thing about Covid is the, we need to isolate. So, there’s, you know, a very limited amount of help one can get in this you know, no-one’s gonna come in to help with the kids. Obviously, no-one is gonna come into the house and you can’t send them out anywhere either because you know, they have to also isolate being around us.

 

Samena and her husband couldn’t get any support with childcare while they were ill, so took it in turns to care for their children.

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Samena and her husband couldn’t get any support with childcare while they were ill, so took it in turns to care for their children.

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I couldn’t do anything you can’t have anybody in, I couldn’t send my kids to my sisters for example to look after because obviously, they are positive. I can’t be sending my kids out I couldn’t have anybody come in and help me, so we just, me and my husband had to take it in shifts and just get through it really.


 
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.

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

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And initially, we, my son said “Oh look I’ll walk him early in the morning, when I haven’t got to meet people.” But he was so unwell, he couldn’t so I had to ring my daughter to come and get the dog. Oh, she had a mask on with like two, I don’t know where she had this mask. She had a procedure covering literally there, she had gloves on, I had to leave the dog outside in, he’s got a small crate. She then anti-bacted all of the crate, threw away the bed that was in it, and bought, and she’d bought a new one. And then she anti-bacted the dog.

 
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.

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

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I felt like oh my God they are stopping me doing my own activities, you know. Because even the people I was speaking to them over the phone I said look, you know, me I got this virus, but I’m 100% fine. I do norm- I can do normal activities. I can shower myself, clean the house, you know, sleep, get to sleep, you know. I can do sport, I can go out for activities, but I can’t do that, you know. So I stay with mys-, I stay in the house by myself. And they were trying to say to me, Elvis, so what can you do to basically, to make yourself better in the house? And I’m like “What do you want me to do?”, you know. I can read a book, you know. I’ve read my university books twice you know. I’ve read, I’ve read everything. What else do you want me to do? I live in a flat with my dad. My dad is not here. The house is not big to do sport and everything, so what I have to do is just play and listen to the music and you know the time goes by, that’s what I can do, you know. And try to eat which I became fat, but you know. You know so that’s what I did, that’s what I did and then, I stayed at home until those days but the- basically when you don’t have, when you know you have Covid but you don’t have the symptoms, you don’t feel anything worse. You don’t feel a symptom, you know. It’s like you are a normal person. People are telling you that you are sick but you don’t feel any sickness in you.


 

 

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