Ask Ada: My Sister Exposed Me To COVID!

Plus: how to hire a new home health aide!

Welcome to Ask Ada, Folks’ bi-weekly advice column for people impacted by health issues or disability. Want Ada to help you with a problem? Email Ada at or tag @folksstories on Twitter with the #askada hashtag.

My Sister Put Me At Risk For Coronavirus

Dear Ada, 

My sister called me on a whim and asked if I wanted her to come by with dinner. We rarely get time together, so I jumped at the chance. Then, after we ate and caught up on each other’s lives, my sister casually mentioned that one of her coworkers tested positive for the coronavirus, which is why she was out of work for that day. They share one large office, so her company requested that she and her coworkers work remotely for 14-days to make sure they remain symptom free. 

This was her first day not being in the office! I was furious, and in my haste told her to leave right away. So now she’s furious at me. I just can’t believe she’d put me and my family at risk, yet she feels like she’s probably fine because she hasn’t seen her coworker in a few days. Should I quarantine now? How can we fix our relationship?  Who’s right here?

You’re right.

But, I don’t think you have to worry much about your relationship with your sister. Her flippancy was both careless and disrespectful, but I’m guessing it wasn’t cruel-hearted. 

Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that her actions were okay. If her work informed her of a possible exposure to the coronavirus, and requested she not come into work, she most certainly shouldn’t have picked up dinner and brought it into your home without clearly informing you of her situation first. Doing so now potentially exposes you, your family, and anyone else she’s come in contact with during the day. 

Whether or not you should quarantine is tough to answer. Possibly, yes. Likely, no.

Whether or not you should quarantine is tough to answer. Possibly, yes. Likely, no. From your reaction to her news, my guess is you’ve been practicing social distancing and taking proper precautions to avoid getting sick. Because of this, and if you’re able to, you may feel safer keeping to yourself at home at least until you’re confident that your sister didn’t get sick from her coworker.

However, what we’re talking about here is a secondary exposure, not an actual exposure at this time. If you’re not experiencing any symptoms yourself, it’s not necessary to get tested or take any special precautions, such as self isolating. Your decision at this point is based more on your own comfort level. However, if your sister develops symptoms herself, consider yourself and your family exposed and quarantine at home, getting tested if someone in your home were to become ill.

The best way to “fix” your relationship with your sister is to be honest with her. Relationships struggle when people avoid dealing with difficult situations like this. Explain why you were upset, and what you wish she would have done differently. Tell her that your reaction to kick her out came from a place of fear and anxiety, and that you love her very much. Listen to what she has to say, too. And then, set some ground rules — together — for how you’ll move forward and what type of boundaries need to be put in place in the future.

Help! My Health Care Aide Is Leaving Me!

Dear Ada,

I need to hire a health care aide to help me in my home. I previously employed a lovely woman who was with me for over ten years, and I’m terrified to start from the beginning again. First, I’m older, and I’m worried someone will try to take advantage of me. Second, I’m set in my ways. I want things done the way my current health aide has been doing it. I don’t want to adapt at my age, especially if I’m paying someone to do the work. Finally, I had such a sweet bond with my previous employee (who is now retiring) that I feel so hurt she’s leaving me, and I don’t want to get hurt again with someone new. What should I do? I can’t take care of myself at home, but I’m scared to hire someone new!

Is your current health care aide willing to sit in on the interviews with you? If so, consider her a massive resource. Not only will she be able to ask your candidates questions about how they’d approach scenarios particular to your needs, but she can give you her best opinion on whether or not they’re qualified enough, and if they can meet your specific needs and demands. If your current aide is unable to help you interview candidates, consider enlisting the help of an agency to screen new candidates for you. 

Better yet, if you did find someone extremely soon, your current health care aide may be willing to train the new employee, setting them up for success so you will be pleased with their work. 

If you’re completely alone in the decision-making process, take a moment to list out the qualities you so admire in your current aide before you complete any interviews. Identify what type of help or activities you’re particular about, and discuss these requests as part of your interview. With every new employee will come new approaches to the work. However, you shouldn’t need to adapt — too much — so long as you can clearly articulate your expectations and voice any concerns or requests immediately in the early stages of their employment.

If you’re interviewing candidates alone, ask them why they decided to get into the field of home health care and what their previous experience consisted of. Find out how they’d handle emergencies — whether they be medical, natural disasters, or anything else. Don’t skip calling references — the more the merrier, especially if you can speak directly to people who they’ve assisted and not just the agencies they’ve worked for.

 Don’t forget to ask your candidates about their own expectations: What are their likes and dislikes? What will they not help you with? Then, make sure to run background checks on your final candidate and collect all relevant personal information you need from them before any work commences.

This process can be overwhelming, anxiety provoking, and long, but when you invest the time to actively search, and be specific with your needs, you’ll hopefully find the perfect-for-you health care aide.

Are you facing a problem that is being complicated by a health condition or disability? Folks’ advice columnist Erin Ollila wants to help. Email and tell us your problem.