by Kevin K. Johnson, Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
By all accounts we are experiencing our most intense flu and infectious disease ‘season’ in quite some time. As I go about my day-to-day activities, I’m paying special attention to taking care of myself and trying to avoid illness at all cost. However, we know that staying healthy is particularly challenging when we also serve as caregivers for seniors. That said, it may be a good time to remind everyone that staying healthy begins at home. Moreover, as caregivers for our elderly loved ones, staying healthy extends to the homes of our care recipients. So, let’s review a bit about “infection control.”
As always, education is a key to warding off possible infections. The more we understand how germs are passed along, how best to protect ourselves from those germs, along with some safety tips, we will all have a better handle on controlling the spread of any infections.
Infections are caused by the spread of pathogens (germs such as viruses and bacteria) coming in contact with our bodies, either internally or externally. These pathogens are spread by any number of methods: contact with bodily fluids, airborne, skin-to-skin contact, or some contaminated objects or foods. With the “easy-to-spread” assumption of many pathogens, it is prudent that you assume that all situations and all people are possible carriers of a serious pathogen, especially during peak infectious times (i.e., flu season). Although we are certainly not trying to make anyone paranoid, it is important that certain precautions be maintained in the home of a senior care recipient (it should be noted that we are only addressing the “care recipient” environment today, but these same precautions should be implemented in one’s private residence, also).
Listed below are some of the more obvious practices for infection control:
- Wash your hands frequently and for a minimum of 15 seconds, especially after using the toilet, handling food, our working with your care recipient.
- Use gloves in all appropriate situations.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, etc., especially after working with your care recipient or handling potentially infectious food (i.e., uncooked chicken).
- Be certain that all food preparation tools and plates are cleaned in soapy water of the correct temperature.
- Make sure that all work areas are cleaned routinely with disinfectant.
Finally, if you should be concerned about a potential spread of infection to yourself of your care recipient, follow these traditional steps:
- Always use lots of water and flush the potentially infected site.
- Flush the area again, this time using warm water and soap, if appropriate.
- And if necessary, seek medical advice.
Your parents old and worn out phrase, “You can never be too safe,” actually does apply in protecting the work site from the spread of any infectious pathogens. Once you have learned and implemented infection prevention methods, the risks of spreading any pathogen will be greatly reduced. That’s the goal of infection control reduction in the spread of an infectious pathogen.
Through this judicious supervision, we should limit the spread of infection, making the home a safe environment for both care recipient and caregiver.