I have written a number of blog postings on safety in the home, and most of them have focused on how to make the home environment safer for an older loved one or other person with special needs. But something we all may not think about as much is making home safer for the caregiver – especially in regards to health safety. As a certified geriatric care manager visiting clients in hospitals, I cannot avoid seeing all manner of hygiene steps that providers take so that they do not transmit disease. They will wash or use hand sanitizer each time they enter the hospital room, they will never sit on the patient’s bed, and if they use gloves, they are very careful in how they remove their gloves when they complete an exam.
If you are a caregiver to a loved one in the home, here are four tips for bringing that same hygiene to the home to make it safer for both you as the caregiver and your loved one:
- Immunizations – This is not just the annual flu season immunization; it really covers a range of opportunistic bacteria or viruses that pose a risk to the health of your loved one as well as to you as the caregiver. Talk to your loved one’s provider about the specific vaccinations you should have such as tetanus, pneumococcal vaccine, hepatitis B, measles/mumps/rubella and varicella (chickenpox). You want to avoid giving or receiving these bugs, and your loved one’s provider will help you to identify what you need to do.
- Hand Washing – You cannot see the germs, but you absolutely must wash your hands often and thoroughly. You should wash before and” hands-on” helping with your loved one and after. And, just as with restaurant workers, wash your hands after using the bath room as well.
- Protective Gloves – As an extra precaution, consider using rubber or latex gloves as an extra layer between your skin and the skin of your loved one, especially if you are charged with assisting in bathing or toileting your loved one. And as you remove the gloves start with the wrist and peel them off so that they are totally inside out as you dispose of them. And wash your hands after for good measure.
- Disinfecting – Cleaning surfaces or clothing and bed clothes that come in contact with your older loved one is a very good idea, and it is easy. Use some amount of bleach in your washer loads, and for surfaces one teaspoon of bleach per gallon water will make an effective disinfectant. This solution can be used in the kitchen as well as the bathroom. As with all cleaning products, read the label for any special precautions.
Charlotte Bishop is a certified geriatric care manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.