This pandemic has been a difficult time for people across the world, whether or not they have contracted COVID-19. But once someone you’re close to tests positive, the dread gets all the more real. Owing to the highly infectious nature of COVID-19, the only safe way to support them is to do so virtually. Fortunately, thanks to technology, there are several ways you can be there for your loved ones, even if you are not next to them! Here’s what you can do:
Not being able to show up for an unwell loved one in person can be frustrating, but the next best thing is to give them a phone call. Be it a quick chat or longer video call, this feels less impersonal to someone being shut in a room for days than a text message. Loneliness is one of the biggest challenges one can face while being in social isolation, and hearing your voice and seeing your face will make them feel loved and cared for.
While it’s important to talk to the patient, an equally important part of communication during these times of crisis is to just listen and be present. Let them know that you’re there for them—through words and also by being responsive when they reach out to you. Do your best to be approachable so they feel comfortable sharing their anxieties with you. Communicate that you recognise they’re going through something difficult, ask how you can help out. You may not be able to soothe all their worries, but lending a patient, non-judgmental ear to their concerns can be hugely beneficial for their mental health.
The second wave of the pandemic has created panic among people, which has led to a large volume of unverified information. Once you test positive, this onslaught of information can make you feel overwhelmed and anxious. As a loved one, something you can do to help out is collate verified medical information about what they should be doing, and other tips and tricks to help them through this illness (such as this article!). Additionally, you may encourage them to limit their social media usage during their period of isolation, as the barrage of content about COVID-19 may overwhelm them and make them feel worse.
Testing positive for COVID-19 can undoubtedly be disheartening, so it’s important that you keep your loved one’s spirits up. This will not only make them feel lighter in the moment, but also aid their recovery in the long run. You can do this by sending them a meme or a funny video you think they would enjoy. This is a low-pressure interaction (getting back to scores of people messaging you can also be tiring during this time) and is also a sweet gesture to let them know you’re thinking of them.
During their period of isolation, staying indoors for so long can get lonely and boring. Take this opportunity to plan some fun virtual activities together! It can be as simple as having a peaceful art-making session over a video call while playing soothing music in the background, using apps to watch a film together, or discussing a book you both recently read. My personal favourite is starting a Spotify group session and DJing their shower—it’s a thoughtful gesture that feels deeply personal. And honestly, who wouldn’t want their shower DJed by their loved one?
While you want to be there for your loved one at all times during this period, that’s not humanly possible. So the next best thing is to give them the tools to succeed. Encouraging them to create a routine for themselves in isolation, even if it’s just bathing and changing into a fresh pair of clothes every morning, can be helpful for them to stay grounded. If their symptoms are mild, you can suggest things such as journaling, staying active, knitting, painting, decorating their room of isolation, or documenting this period of their lives through photos.
If you have not been in a similar situation as your loved ones, it can be difficult to grasp the extent of what they may be going through. In this case, it could be helpful to connect them with a person who has recently experienced self-isolation owing to COVID-19. They might be able to empathise with and comfort your loved one in a way that is beyond your capacity.
At the end of the day, it is important to remember that you are not a medical professional and cannot be a stand-in for a therapist if your loved one needs it. The next best thing is to provide them with resources for affordable or free online chat/video therapy, or an online consultation with a physician.
Finally, it is very important that you remember to look after yourself during this time. A loved one testing positive for COVID-19 can be very worrying. It is important to check in with your mental and emotional state, and do what you need to do to self-soothe. If you are feeling overwhelmed, it is perfectly okay to take a step back to collect yourself. Remember, you cannot give from an empty cup.
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