To decrease the chances of an infectious illness spreading and infecting other household members, it is important that every effort be made to keep the illness in a contained area. Having a sick room in the home can achieve this, as well as assist in limiting the number of people who have close contact with the sick person.
Characteristics of the Ideal Sick Room
To ensure that the sickness is as contained as possible, set up the sick room in a bedroom or another separate room in the house. Ensure that the room has good lighting, a window that opens, and easy access to a personal bathroom with a sink and running water.
Prevention is Key
To avoid other family members falling ill, try to limit the exposure of the sick person to the other family members. This includes making sure that any communal areas (kitchen, bathroom, etc) be thoroughly cleaned with disinfectant each day to avoid the transmission of germs. Towels, water bottles, drinking glasses, and other personal care items used by the sick person, should not be used by other family members.
Other preventative measures for the sick room could be made ahead of time to make the room ready before it is needed. Having all necessary items in the room will make for easy accessibility as well as containment of illness. Consider these 9 preventative measures:
- All tissues, utensils, equipment, bedding, and clothing in contact with the sick person should be handled as if the germs of the illness were on them. Dishes and equipment should be washed in hot soapy water or wiped with 10% bleach or other disinfectant.
- Use disposable dishes when possible so they can be discarded in plastic bags in the room.
- Place all used tissues directly into a plastic bag that can be closed at the top before leaving the sick room. Have alcohol-based hand cleaning solution (Purell) at the bedside so the person can wash their hands after they cough or sneeze.
- Gently fold or roll clothing and bedding into a plastic bag, being careful not to shake them, possibly releasing the germs into the air. Clothing and bedding should be washed in hot water.
- Clean items in the room with a 10% bleach solution (made by combining 1 ounce of bleach with 9 ounces of water) or other disinfectant. Clean bathroom faucets and sink with 10% bleach or disinfectant wipes after the sick person has used them.
- Wear a raincoat or other washable gown/coat over your clothes when in the room caring for the sick person. This gown will help to protect you from getting the germs on your clothes while caring for the person. This gown should stay in the room.
- Wash your hands or use a alcohol-based cleaning solution (Purell) on your hands every time you leave the room. If disposable gloves are available, they can be worn while in the room but they should be removed in the room and discarded in the room, and then your hands must be washed.
- Limit the people in close contact (within 6 feet) of the sick person. Keep the door to the sick room closed. Have a bell or cell phone by the bedside so the person can call for assistance when needed.
- If respiratory masks (N95) are available, they should be worn by the sick person and the caretaker when they are in close contact.
Some items to consider when stocking a sick room are:
- Bed with linens, pillow and blanket
- Small wastebasket or a bucket lined with a plastic garbage bag.
- Pitcher or large bottle for water
- Large plastic dishpan
- Clipboard with paper and a pen for writing in the daily log.
- Hand crank or battery-powered radio
- Good source of light
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Clothes hamper or a garbage can lined with a plastic garbage bag can be used to collect soiled clothing and bedding before they are washed.
- A bell or a noisemaker to call for assistance.
- Hand wipes or a waterless hand sanitizer
- Cotton balls
- Rubbing alcohol, disinfectant or bleach
- Plastic garbage bags
- Measuring cup capable of holding 8 ounces or 250 ml
- Over-the-counter medications for use in the sick room
- Aprons or smocks (at least 2)
- Latex household cleaning gloves (2 pairs)
- Disposable vinyl gloves (2 boxes)
- Garbage bags
- N95 respirator masks (2 boxes) for use when the sick person is coughing or sneezing (can be purchased at hardware stores and some drugstores)
To prepare for longer-term scenarios, consider adding other medical supplies to the sick room. Further having some medical response packs pre-packaged cuts down on response time, and gives the caregiver more of an advantage in properly caring for the wounded. To prepare for a SHTF scenario, it would be beneficial to take into account the most likely medical situations you may come in contact with and plan accordingly.
To conclude, preventing the transmission of an illness can be done with proper planning and preparation. A little forethought will help the caregiver be as efficient as possible in treating the ill patient, and in the process, keep the rest of household as healthy as possible.
Sections of this article were adapted from the book Pandemic Home Care