Stay at Home Tips: What to do if you have family or friends who live alone


What to do if you have family or friends who live alone

So many of us live by ourselves. As we practice social distancing, however, living alone can begin to feel lonely. Social isolation and loneliness can be bad for our health.

Social distancing means physical distancing in order to lower the chances of getting or giving someone an illness. You may not be able to visit your loved ones in person, but there are many ways to stay connected with friends and family.

How can we support our loved ones who live alone?

Stay connected

  • Make a phone call, write letters, video chat, or text. 
  • If you have kids, have them draw pictures to send in the mail.
  • Get creative . Video conference a family dinner or a game night, or visit a virtual museum together.
  • If you have a smartphone or tablet, try a new app! Technology can help you stay connected in fun, new ways.
  • Talk about more than just the weather. Reminisce about a family photo, pull out an old joke book, practice asking meaningful questions.
  • If your loved one becomes ill, make sure to check on them every day by phone, video chat, or text. If they need medical care or advice, they should call their doctor. If they have a medical emergency, call 911.

Ask how you can help

  • Make sure they know about grocery and pharmacy delivery services, and help them set these services up if they want. Check in every week when you get your groceries delivered to see how they are getting their groceries that week. You can share recipes and meal ideas. 
  • Ask them what important phone numbers and contacts you might need to know if they fall ill, such as their pharmacy, doctor, family contacts, or other frequently called numbers
  • Let them know where to go if they need help meeting their needs

Take good care of yourself

  • Get outdoors as much as you can. Sit on your porch, go for a walk, work in your yard, or plant a container garden.
  • Maintain a regular routine, including mealtimes and bedtimes.
  • Find ways to share your skills and talents from a distance. Services like VolunteerMatch can help you find local opportunities you can help with from home. Or make a call to a local school, community center, or organization to learn how you can help from home.
  • Perform random acts of kindness. Send notes or cards to a local residential care facility, make a donation to a local food bank or shelter, or decorate your yard and windows for your neighbors’ enjoyment.
  • Begin or continue a gratitude practice. Make a list of things you are thankful for, or send a note or letter of gratitude to someone in your life.
  • Consider a new hobby or revive an old one. Try learning a new language, line dancing, or playing bridge online.
  • Check some things off your to do list. Organize those family photos or clean out those closets.
  • Try to move your body every day in ways that are safe for you.
  • It’s OK to ask for help. If you are feeling distressed, call the National Disaster Distress Helpline (800-985-5990) for emotional support, or call 2-1-1 and ask about your county’s emotional support hotline.

Explore more COVID-19 resources


Know the basics about COVID-19

FOR RELIABLE INFORMATION YOU CAN TRUST, about staying safe and what to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms, go to

What are the symptoms?

Not everyone with COVID-19 has all of these symptoms. For many, symptoms are mild, with no fever. It is important to know that you can still spread (transmit) the virus to others even if you have mild or no symptoms. Two to 14 days after exposure, people may experience:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Body or muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

What should I do if I develop symptoms?

If you become ill, stay home and call your doctor if you feel you need medical care or advice. If you are having an emergency, call 911. 

  • Each day, write down your symptoms so you can share accurate information with your doctor. 
  • Make sure a family member or friend knows that you are unwell and ask them to check on you by phone or video chat every day. Even mild illnesses can quickly take a turn for the worse.
  • Practice good self-care. Get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids.

How can I lower my risk of getting COVID-19?

  • Stay home as much as possible to protect yourself and others.
  • When possible, shop for two weeks of groceries at a time to expose yourself less often.
  • Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds especially after using the bathroom, before eating, and after touching door handles, keypads, pens, and other frequently used surfaces.


  • Call the National Disaster Distress Helpline to speak to a trained crisis counselor
    • 800-985-5990
    • 800-846-8517 (TTY)
    • Or text: TalkWithUs to 66746
  • Access information and resources to help you meet your immediate needs
    • Call 2-1-1
    • Contact your local Aging and Disability Resource Center

See more UW-Madison Division of Extension Stay at Home Tips 


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