In midlife, many of us have young adult children in transition (like from college back home for varying lengths of time), or other family members who need or choose to take shelter with us. The coronavirus has added a serious new complication to those transitions, including how to welcome your family member home and protect everyone’s health. I’m not an expert on coronavirus, but I can offer some basic guidance and additional resources.
One common scenario is that everyone in the household appears to be healthy, and the person coming to stay also appears to be healthy. Since there’s no established protocol, you’ll have to make some judgment calls.
If your family member knows they have been exposed to the virus, or if they are coming from a coronavirus hotspot like New York, then they should definitely self-quarantine for two weeks, even if they don’t have symptoms. Otherwise it’s a matter of how much risk you can tolerate in your household, for example, whether there are others living in your house who are at risk because of diabetes or a heart condition.
According to Johns Hopkins, self-quarantining involves
- Using standard hygiene and washing hands frequently
- Not sharing things like towels and utensils
- Staying at home
- Not having visitors
- Staying at least 6 feet away from other people in your household
But if your family member hasn’t been exposed as far as they know, shows no symptoms, and isn’t coming from a hotspot, then consider social distancing in the home as much as possible for two weeks—no hugging or sitting next to them on the couch. If you can, designate one bathroom that’s to be used by the new household member only, don’t share towels, and be even more diligent about disinfecting surfaces and doorknobs. Everyone in the household should be washing their hands frequently and correctly. The CDC has additional tips on how to protect yourself and how to clean your home.
(And here’s some help from the New York Times explaining what to do if you or a loved one starts developing symptoms.)
In any case, the safest thing is to have your family member self-quarantine for two weeks; because there’s so much we still don’t know about the coronavirus, it’s impossible to know if that’s overkill or common sense. Stay healthy!
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.