At home with COVID-19 : With limited space and resources, families struggle and survive with home care

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 13) - “I knew what was happening - my mom and dad were sick, so I said I have to be my mom and dad ‘til they’re okay.”

These were the words of 12-year-old Aianna Andrey upon learning that both of her parents tested positive for COVID-19. She knew she had to do some ‘adulting’ for her parents and three siblings.

Her father felt the symptoms first and left their condominium unit in Taguig City to isolate himself.

Two days later, Aianna’s mother had difficulty breathing. She waited for more than 15 hours before she could be treated at the emergency room. She was confirmed to have COVID-19 and diagnosed with bilateral pneumonia – a lung infection which affects both lungs.

Aianna’s father, Aris, said they knew that many hospitals are in full capacity so they decided to undergo home treatment. His wife also felt there were others who needed to be confined more than her, “She was treated in a tent. And she said, ‘Nakakaawa yung mga matatanda’ (I feel bad for the elderly). So she said, I’m confident I can be managed at home and she will take that risk.”

Mallen was isolated in their condo unit’s only bedroom. A doctor comes in everyday to check on her. The living room was converted into the kids’ sleeping area.

Aianna said she just followed her parents’ instructions given over the phone or online. “Me and my brother take turns doing the chores. We clean the floor, do the laundry, wash the dishes, disinfect the house… I usually just complain to myself that I have lots of chores. I still do it because I have to.”

The family received a lot of help from relatives and friends from Aianna’s swimming team at the Colegio San Agustin. They sent food every day. They made sure they didn’t miss out on sending a cake and some balloons for Aianna’s birthday last March 25. Aianna shares, “It was kinda sad. My wish for my birthday was that everything’s gonnna be okay, and the wish came true.”

Aianna’s parents are recovering now. One of her twin sisters also tested positive for the virus but only had mild symptoms.

Aris said this is one of the hardest things the family had to go through. He’s very proud his eldest daughter took charge and held them together, “She’s our rock in the family… But I think what you really have to do - not only for businesses, even for families, aside from being self-reliant, you really have to be resilient.”

Big families struggle with limited space and resources

Lorraine Emeterio’s family has been on isolation in their home in Meycauayan, Bulacan for more than a month now.

One by one, three of them tested positive for the virus, starting with her mother.

But the patients weren’t the only ones affected. Since they lived with their extended family, ten other relatives had to evacuate and squeeze into a smaller room outside the main house.

Lorraine was especially worried for the children and their 76-year-old grandmother.

“Mahirap, kasi malaki ang pamilya namin. Sa kitchen namin dun nagluluto, sa sala dun nanonood ng tv. Dun tumatambay mga bata kaya natakot din po kami. Ang dami pong bata eh… And kahit na sabihin mild ang symptoms eh bata-bata naman kami. Pero kapag si Nanay ang matamaan baka siya ang makaramdam ng intensity ng virus,” she said.

[Translation : It’s hard because we have a big family. In our kitchen, this is where we cook. We watch TV in the living room. This is where the children hang out. We got scared because of the kids… And eventhough we had mild symptoms, we are young. But if our Nanay (grandmother) gets infected, she might feel the intensity of the virus.]

Their isolation also meant her mother and sister had to be absent from work.

Lorraine had to stop attending online classes. “Yung unang linggo ang pinakamahirap kasi tatlo kaming baldado nun… Nahirapan din talaga kami mag-cope kase di makapagtrabaho si Mama. Medyo nag-rely din kami sa donation ng friends and ibang kamaganak.”

[Translation : The first week was the hardest because the three of us couldn’t move… We had a hard time coping because Mama can’t work. We had to rely on donations from friends and other relatives.]

According to the Health Department, more than 97% of COVID-19 patients have mild symptoms. With hospitals in full capacity, DOH officials suggest home care for asymptomatic patients or those with mild to moderate cases.

Dr. Anna Lisa Ong-Lim of the DOH-technical advisory group says among things that should be considered for home care are clinical evaluation of the patient, home set-up and having a reliable caregiver.