There are many common and not-so-common diseases and infections that are spread through a variety of physical contact and non-contact actions. While a large percentage of these potential illnesses do not pose a serious threat to healthy individuals, someone in a weakened state can have their health easily put in jeopardy unless home caregivers practice a few, simple things to prevent infection:
Wash and disinfect your hands thoroughly The number one way to prevent a wide range of illnesses is properly washing your hands on a regular basis using soap and water. This is especially important after using the bathroom, before handling or eating any food, and before and after having contact with anyone who’s sick. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is an effective substitute for soap and water when those are not available, so it’s always a good idea to have a small squeeze bottle of hand sanitizer with you when in a home health care environment.
Properly prepare foods That means thoroughly washing all produce and cooking meats to proper doneness (between 140-165 degrees depending on the meat and cut) to ensure any dangerous bacteria are killed. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold (below 38 degrees for proper storage in a refrigerator).
Prevent cross-contamination All the washing and disinfecting will do no good if a disinfected surface comes in contact with an infected one. That means keeping raw and cooked foods separate and thoroughly cleaning all utensils, equipment, and preparation surfaces after use in processing and preparing food. Likewise, all reusable diagnostic and therapeutic devices and instruments used in the home should be sterilized after use if they come into contact with human tissue or bodily fluids.
Use disinfectant cleaner on hard surfaces Many patients and even some caregivers underestimate where germs and bacteria can be hiding. Use a disinfectant cleaner on every hard surface that is touched frequently, such as:
- Bed rails
- Bedside tables
- Door knobs and push plates (often found on commercial doors)
- Common tables
- Light switches
- Bathroom fixtures
- Computer keyboards
Home caregivers can unintentionally infect themselves if they don’t take proper precautions during the course of direct care. If you’re providing healthcare to someone at home, here are some additional tips to prevent infection:
- Do not touch your face or mouth while caring for the patient or handling patient equipment
- Wear disposable gloves when in direct contact with any of the patient’s body fluids or blood
- Wear gloves when handling any patient supplies which have come in contact with patient’s blood or body fluid
- Wear a disposable gown if your clothing is likely to come in contact with the patient’s body secretions
- Use a mask if recommended by a medical professional
- Dispose of soiled tissues, dressings, bandages, gloves, gowns, masks, and used supplies in a sealed plastic bag
- Use household bleach to clean spills and wash soiled clothes
- DO NOT RECAP needles or attempt to bend or break needles since you may accidentally stick yourself
- Dispose of needles only in a proper container
- Wash your hands thoroughly when you are through
With the simple precautions we’ve outlined here, caregivers can significantly reduce the chance of infection, not only for those in their care, but for themselves as well.