How to protect a vulnerable person in your home from coronavirus

April 21, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

This blog was originally posted in 2020. Some information may be out of date. For the latest updates on vaccines, testing, screening, visitor policy and post-COVID support, visit

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forced us to pay more attention to what we’re touching and do a better job of cleaning our hands and our houses.

Yet, it’s hard enough to remember not to touch your own face, let alone know how to ensure you don’t spread germs to a vulnerable relative.

For people who live with a loved one who could be more susceptible to complications from COVID-19, this is reality.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that older adults and people with underlying medical conditions — hypertension, lung disease, moderate-to-severe asthma, diabetes, severe obesity, and chronic heart conditions, among others — are at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

To protect that vulnerable person in your household, you need to take some preventive steps to make it a coronavirus-free zone.

Beyond the advice to wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds, cover your coughs and sneezes, and regularly clean and disinfect surfaces and frequently touched areas (doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, handles, faucets, phones), add these steps to your prevention routine:

  • Maintain social distance, even in the house. The virus spreads mainly from person to person who are within 6 feet of each other, through droplets that spray out when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Learn more about how COVID-19 spreads. If you have a cough or feel like you’re going to sneeze, put some distance between yourself and your family members before it happens (and cover your mouth and nose with a bent elbow when it does).

  • Designate a “safe” part of the house for high-risk family members. If one of your family members is age 60 or older, or immunocompromised, let them have their own space in the house as their own, where they mostly reside.

  • Keep track of any medical supplies your relative needs (oxygen, incontinence, dialysis, wound care) and create a back-up plan.

  • Don’t share personal items. Don’t share utensils, toothbrushes, toothpaste or other personal items with your family members.

  • Designate one person to run errands and minimize the number of times that person needs to leave the house. Stock up on non-perishable food to have on hand in your home. When your designated errand-runner leaves the house, make sure he or she wears a mask and maintains social distance. Consider options for grocery delivery, curbside pick-up and take-out. When returning home from an errand, wash your hands immediately and disinfect any surfaces you may have touched before washing them (such as a door or faucet handle).

  • Isolate sick individuals. If a family member becomes sick, have them self-isolate in a single room and bathroom in your home according to your doctor’s advice. Have family members regularly self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.

  • Keep your distance from delivery workers. If you have items delivered, stay 6 feet away from workers if you must go outside. Pay for everything (including tips) online if possible.

  • Don’t have guests over to your house when case positivity rates are high. If you must have a family member or friend over, everyone should wear a mask, maintain a 6-foot distance and keep them out of shared living areas.

  • If you work in healthcare, clean up before you interact. When you get home from work and before entering your home, take off your shoes and work clothes and put in a plastic bag until you can wash them. Head straight for the shower (use your own soap and towels) and change into clean clothes before you interact with your family members.

Use our coronavirus Symptom Checker.

Get the latest information on what Edward-Elmhurst Health is doing about coronavirus.

You can also visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Illinois Department of Public Health for additional information on COVID-19 and steps you can take to help prevent the spread.

Get more information about coronavirus from Healthy Driven Chicago.

The information in this article may change at any time due to the changing landscape of this pandemic. Read the latest on COVID-19.

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