'Most important frontliners': Caring for family members when COVID hits home

Anjo Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 16 2022 09:45 PM

Josh Buena & Janice Tarroza show their separate rooms at home during their time in isolation
Josh Buena & Janice Tarroza show their separate rooms at home during their time in isolation.

MANILA - Josh Buena and Janice Tarroza have been living in separate rooms with their children for over a week since their 11-year-old eldest child came down with fever and flu-like symptoms on January 5.

Within the next few days, their entire family of 5 consecutively got sick.

Only Josh and their eldest had taken antigen tests, both of which came out positive.

As Josh moved to their attic with the eldest, Janice stayed at their family bedroom with their younger kids aged 9 and 4.

Even without getting a confirmatory test as well as tests for the rest of the family, they decided to treat their situation as COVID-19.

“Prior noon magkasama talaga kami sa kuwarto. Maano pa anak namin, masiksik, ma-cuddle, malaki talaga chance na mag-positive lahat,” Janice said.

“Kahit hindi confirmed na COVID sa kanila, isipin natin na ganon na rin iyon kasi may nag-positive na sa bahay,” Josh said.

The children’s temperatures went as high as 40 degrees Celsius, worrying both mother and father.

Janice said they nearly rushed the children to the hospital when their fevers grew worse, but ultimately ended up staying home.

The parents are close to finishing their 10-day quarantine and isolation as the children’s symptoms have already subsided.

CHALLENGES TO HOME CARE

Josh & Janice's 3 kids got worse fevers in the first days since they showed symptoms. 
Josh & Janice's 3 kids got worse fevers in the first days since they showed symptoms. 

Their experience is increasingly familiar to many Filipino families as new COVID-19 infections reach new highs, with many families coming down with symptoms one after the other.

Many also have no means to test if they are indeed sick with COVID.

For Dr. Michael Caampued, president of the Philippine Society of Public Health Physicians, the biggest challenges for families doing home care for COVID-related cases are the availability of the following: wide and separate spaces, separate restrooms, access to medical consultation, and timely testing and referral.

Families deciding to take care of members who get sick at home will have to make sure they have the capability to do so with the above facilities and access, Caampued said.

Aside from sanitation and access to social services, airflow must also be ensured.

Otherwise, they should consider moving the symptomatic to isolation facilities or transferring those who have no symptoms yet or are not infected to neighbors or relatives.

Crucial as well is deciding who will perform various functions in the house, especially for supplies and food.

“Mag-assign na ng responsibilidad, sino ang magiging decision maker natin. Sino ang mangangalaga sa atin, sino ang magpapa-navigate sa atin sa iba-ibang pangangailangan natin, at sino ma-a-assign na manatili sa bahay kung sakali may ibang pangangailangan,” Caampued suggested.

“Napakahalaga noon kasi this is an emergency situation for any family. So dapat mayroong emergency response level sa bawat pamilya."

Aside from members who show symptoms, families should also find ways to isolate senior citizens, those who are immunocompromised, have been ill for a long period, and have comorbidities.

Josh gets food via the stairs. Photo courtesy of Janice Tarroza.
Josh gets food via the stairs. Photo courtesy of Janice Tarroza

At Josh and Janice’s Las Piñas home, the mother took on the mantle of preparing meals, which entailed going up and down their stairs and at times making her own pain, fatigue, and breathing worse.

To minimize movement, she had moved essentials such as fruits and water to their room, as well as created a dirty kitchen of sorts at an open space of the house.

Josh picked up his meals on the stairs and at them in his room.

He said the most difficult part of isolation for him was not being able to help his partner take care of their children.

“Siya nag-aalaga sa amin lahat. Hindi ka makatulog. More on psychological ang hirap,” he said.

Caampued said parents should watch out for difficulty in breathing, convulsions, diarrhea, losing consciousness, lethargy or worsening symptoms. These are signs that children and others need to be hospitalized immediately.

A pulse oximeter is an essential item in any family’s COVID-19 home care kit to catch these signs, he added.

GETTING RIGHT INFO

Janice created a makeshift supply table and dirty kitchen at their balcony where she can wash towels and prepare food. Photo courtesy of Janice Tarroza
Janice created a makeshift supply table and dirty kitchen at their balcony where she can wash towels and prepare food. Photo courtesy of Janice Tarroza

Without easy access to medical facilities, the family relied a lot on relatives who were health care workers as their source of guidance and information.

Caampued said getting in touch with health care workers—whether those personally known to the family or those already in the village or community—is also important to get the right information.

Janice says this helped them a lot since many of the tips and information they found online were dubious or unreliable.

“Hindi naman mahirap i-double check muna natin ang gagawin lalo na sa aming mga piniling mag-stay sa bahay kaysa pumunta sa hospital. Kapag nagdesisyon kang mag-stay sa bahay, kargo mo na ‘yan kasi pinili mong mag-stay. So might as well i-check natin kung tama ba ang mga ginagawa o inaapply natin sa household natin,” she said.

Families can reach the Department of Health’s COVID-19 hotlines 1555 and (02) 894-COVID (26843) or visit bit.ly/DOHTelemedicine for teleconsultation options.

For Caampued, the barangay and local officials should help in correct info dissemination by constantly reminding families how to assess their household or what actions to take when they are hit by infections.

Local authorities, he added, should also provide ready means for families to report anyone experiencing symptoms and other conditions, such as SMS or messaging apps.

Josh & Janice with their kids on New Year's Day 2022. Photo courtesy of Janice Tarroza
Josh & Janice with their kids on New Year's Day 2022. Photo courtesy of Janice Tarroza

“Tandaan natin families are the largest and most important frontliners for this pandemic. Dapat ang pamilya ay ready,” Caampued said.

“Maraming paraan para ma-capacitate natin ang bawat pamilya to prevent protect and prepare the families.”

As other health experts also recommend families to consider vaccinating their children, Josh and Janice agree on two precautionary measures for now: putting off non-essential trips outside the home and staying healthy.

“Magtiis muna na huwag ilabas ang mga anak nila,” Josh said.

Janice added: “Huwag mong antaying magkasakit pamilya mo para mag-step-up ka. Maging healthy ka.”