Alone together; Self-isolation in a joint family

Published On: April 10, 2020 11:08 AM NPT By: The Week Bureau

Self-isolation is rarely possible in a culture that demands families to stay together in the same household. When social distancing becomes the need of the hour, it’s hard to disentangle from all the regular norms we have formed over years as a joint family—norms that require regular interactions, eating at the same table and staying in the same room for hours on end. So here are a few precautionary measures you can follow to stay safe if you happen to live in a joint family.

Disinfect shared living area
Despite how far away you stay from one another, it will have little to no impact if you’re all moving around in the same shared space all day long. It’s highly important that the most accessible places and rooms be disinfected and cleaned out on a regular basis. This includes kitchen, dining room, living room and, especially, toilets.

For cleaning, you can use dettol with water and wipe counter space and tables. You can also use an iodine solution to do the same. The cloth materials from your living room must be cleaned in hot water so that there are no residue left. In the toilets, pay attention to the towels and soaps you use. Make sure each person has their own basic necessities and minimize sharing as much as you can.

Avoid close contact
This is a definite given, but a few reminders here and there don’t hurt. It doesn’t matter how big or close your joint family is. When social distancing and isolation are the only things keeping you from getting sick, you have to implement it in your life. You don’t have to all watch the news together. You don’t all have to have dinner at the same time. You don’t need to visit another person in their rooms so you can catch up on gossip. Self-isolation might have given you a break from life, but this isn’t a vacation. So, you can Netflix and chill alone. You can take food to your room and eat alone. You can text one another in messenger to stay updated even if you’re under the same roof. Just don’t take unnecessary risks right now.

Lay down the ground rules of hygiene
This doesn’t just mean showering daily and washing your hands every hour. Laying down rules means that each member will be aware of the fact that one simple mistake could lead to the downfall of the entire family. It means eating healthy, stopping the flow of outside into the inside world, making sure that the extension of your body—laptops, phones and such devices—are always clean. 
It will also help if there is an assigned hand sanitizer, soap and cleaning materials for the entire family. Try to clean what you use on a regular basis and make sure each member of your family wipes down things they use after they use it. And as far as possible, don’t share items around the house. 

Decide on two people who get to go outside
Another way to stay safe is by decreasing the number of people going out. If, say, only two members of the family are venturing to stores and getting everything that the entire family needs, the probability of getting sick is minimized. If there’s a vehicle in the family, especially a four-wheeler, then you only need one person who can drive to get the basic necessities. 

Just make sure that the said people are not elderlies or children, i.e. not over 65 or below 17. Also, try to limit the number of times people have to go out. Make a list of things you will need for the week and pass it over to the designated people. This way, they will only be going out once or twice a week at the most.

Minimize conflict
These are difficult times and being cooped up inside the house with a lot of people is bound to test anyone’s patience. And when you’re in a joint family, it’s only a matter of time before some few built-up resentments start becoming glaringly obvious. So while you’re avoiding physical contact with one another, try to avoid conflicts as well. Make a chores schedule if you have to. Divide household expenditure after proper discussions and with complete transparency. Don’t open up old wounds or let them fester for a long time. Do your share of work and make sure everyone is following the house rules.

Designate a safe space for outside gears
No matter how hard you try to avoid it, you will have to go out once in a while, especially when you’re living in a big family where each individual’s needs have to be fulfilled. So if you’re regularly venturing out, it’s very useful to have a locked area for keeping your outside gears. This could include anything—bike helmets, windcheater, raincoat, shoes—anything that is likely to come in contact with the air outside. It’s also highly recommended that the area be somewhere close to the entrance of your house so that it can be used as per your convenience and requirement. Whatever you do, don’t take what you have used outside indoors. 

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