There are a number of reasons why someone might self isolate during the COVID-19 pandemic and with widespread community transmission at the moment, there are thousands of Australians isolating.
- Planning can help to take the stress out of needing to isolate at home
- It’s important to consider goods, services, health and wellbeing
- Talk to everyone who is involved in your life - from employers to family, friends and support workers who may be involved in your preparation
It could be because you want to avoid the virus, particularly if there is a spike in cases where you live, because you have come in contact with someone who has or may have COVID-19, because you have symptoms and want to isolate until you get your test results or because you have tested positive to COVID-19.
Regardless of the reason why you might self-isolate, if you plan ahead you will be prepared and the situation will be less stressful.
You will need to make not just one plan, but a range of plans for different scenarios to be able to be fully prepared.
- A plan for staying at home when you are well
- A plan for what you will do if you become unwell while at home
- A plan for going to hospital
- A plan for what happens if you can’t get into a hospital (if all the beds are full of people who are more sick than you are)
Planning for isolating at home is likely to focus on what goods, services and supports you will need to live safely and as healthily as possible.
For planning to go to hospital in the event you are sick and can’t get the medical care you need at home, talk to your doctor to see what your options are. Also check with your doctor what the best way to contact them is in an emergency.
It’s a good idea to write your plans down and keep them all in the same place, where they are easily accessible for you or anyone else in your household.
If there are people outside your household involved, inform them that you have included them in your plan and make sure they are able to help.
It’s best not to rely on just one person outside your home in your plan, in case that person has to isolate themselves or may be unable to help for another reason.
For a comprehensive guide to planning to keep yourself safe during the pandemic while you are not required to be in isolation, People with Disability Australia has a helpful resource.
What goods to think about for isolation at home
Start by writing a checklist of all your essential items and then stock up on about two weeks worth of everything on the list.
The checklist could include:
- Pantry food such as pasta and rice
- Frozen food such as spare servings of meat and vegetables
- Any specialty foods or formulas you need
- Medication (it is suggested you have a month’s worth of medications)
- Other products which you use regularly, such as for continence management
- Batteries for any aids or equipment you use
- Pet food
Find out if you can arrange to have fresh food delivered to your door in a contactless method - this could be through a supermarket delivery, a friend or family member or even support worker or volunteer community service dropping the food off.
If you need help to prepare meals or are unsure what to buy to stock up your freezer and pantry, talk to your support workers or service providers about planning ahead with emergency meal plans. You could see if your support workers are able to help you with cooking through video, online chat, a list of steps to follow, or another contactless option.
If these options don’t work, talk to support workers, family or close friends about how you might be able to have pre-made meals delivered while you are in isolation so that you can stay as healthy as possible.
Aside from the regular products you use and food, you also need to stock up on items you might need if you or someone in your household gets COVID-19, or to monitor yourself and others and protect yourself from the virus.
These items include:
- Face masks (preferably surgical grade)
- Hand sanitiser
- Disposable medical gloves
- Pain relief - either paracetamol or ibuprofen
- Products to assist with hydration, such as tablets or drinks, as it can be more difficult to stay hydrated with a sore throat or diarrhoea, which are symptoms of COVID-19
- Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) in case you need to test yourself or others at home
- Any other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) you need
- An oximeter - this is optional but is usually helpful for people with underlying medical conditions to monitor their oxygen levels
People with disability who hold a Pension Concession Card, Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card, Department of Veterans' Affairs Gold, White or Orange Card, Health Care Card or Low Income Health Card can access up to 10 free RATs from pharmacies over three months. You can check which pharmacies near you have RATs in stock here and go into the store with your card to get the free tests.
State and Territory Governments also offer free RATs for people who are close contacts of a confirmed case, but how to get these differs in each region so it is best to check your Government’s health department website.
Services to think about for isolation at home
Think about any employment you have and whether you are able to be supported to work from home. Talk to your employer about how this might be set up and ask what they can do to support you while you are working from home.
For disability related support services, consider what is essential and what you can live without or access via remote telepractice methods, such as over the phone, so that you know how you can limit the number of people coming into contact with you when you are isolating.
For your essential supports consider how often support workers need to visit and whether their visits can be arranged at different times so that workers don’t come into contact with each other where possible.
Ask support workers if they would be willing to still support you if you had COVID-19 and keep a list of who agrees. You might also like to ask if support workers are comfortable giving you their vaccination and booster status.
Be aware of what kind of extra support you might be able to receive as an NDIS participant.
Currently (as of January 2022) the NDIS will fund:
- A once off professional deep clean of your home if one of your support workers tests positive to COVID-19
- Up to $12.50 for a RAT for eligible Supported Independent Living (SIL) participants when it is needed in order for them to live safely at home, for example if a resident has been out in the community and needs to test before returning to a home which they share with others
- Up to $27 per day which service providers can claim from your plan to provide support workers with PPE
- Additional costs of up to $1,200 per day for SIL residents who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or are required to isolate by the Government
Core funding can also be temporarily directed to funding a meal preparation and delivery service for you if you would usually have a support worker help you with meals and that support becomes unavailable or will put you at greater risk of catching COVID-19.
Part of your planning should be focused on your mental health over the time you are in isolation. Have a plan for how you will stay connected with friends and family and think about what mental health services you might be able to access if you need to.
Support workers, support coordinators and psychosocial recovery coaches might be able to help you with a mental health plan for time in isolation.
Contacts for mental health services can be put on your emergency contact list alongside your doctor, therapists, specialists and other emergency contacts so that they are quick and easy for you to find.
An emergency contact list can also be used by a health worker or support worker if they need to visit you at home in a medical emergency or if you need to be transferred to hospital.
In some States and Territories when you contract COVID-19 the Government will help you to monitor your symptoms while isolating at home by checking in with you or delivering a kit to you. This kit might include an oxygen monitor and thermometer, but you should check your Government’s website to see if this will be available to you in the event that you need it.
For COVID-19 advice which is more specific to your location click on your State or Territory below:
- Australian Capital Territory
- New South Wales
- Northern Territory
- South Australia
- Western Australia
Have you had to go into isolation because of COVID-19? Tell us in the comments below.