Virus Prevention Tips for In-Home Senior Caregivers
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted our lives and altered how we interact with each other. It’s only natural to be anxious and worried if you’re caring for an elderly loved one who could be vulnerable to COVID-19.
So, how can you keep the senior you’re caring for safe from an infectious disease such as the coronavirus?
Alecia Pineo, owner and director of Visiting Angels Mid-Maine and a registered nurse, offers some simple ways to ensure your senior loved one is as protected as possible from contagions.
Back to the Basics of Hygiene During the Coronavirus Pandemic
“Act as if you have come into contact with a virus that has contaminated your clothes and belongings,” says Pineo. “This mindset will help you to be extra careful about what you touch and how frequently you wash your hands and use hand sanitizers and wipes.”
“You’re clean and ready to provide care if you wash your hands, put on your mask, don’t touch your face, and clean all high-touch objects and surfaces,” she continues. “It’s good to wear gloves, but not if wearing them creates a false safety net. Gloves still get dirty, and you can spread germs. Don’t forget to change gloves often, and wash your hands as well.”
Much of the work in preventing viruses from spreading is observing basic hygiene.
“These are things people should be doing anyway, whether they’re caring for the elderly or not,” adds Pineo. “Keeping a mask on is important, because it keeps you from touching your face.”
The Principle of Separation
Pineo’s basic advice to prevent the spread of viruses is to keep objects separate and clean, and minimize surfaces that germs use to travel from one location to another. She offers the following hygiene tips when tending to a senior or others in your care:
- Put long hair up
- Leave jewelry off, or only wear minimal and washable pieces of jewelry
- Bring clean shoes to put on in a house where you’re providing care so you don’t spread anything you walked on all over the house
- Wear short sleeves. If you’re cold, wear a light jacket but take it off when providing care
- Wear clean clothes, and only wear clothes once before washing them
- Use bags that can be wiped down and disinfected
Grocery Shopping and Errands
Pineo encourages people to minimize personal belongings they bring with them if grocery shopping or travelling to other places: “If you don’t need it, leave it at home.”
She says to sanitize groceries and other items when it makes sense. If you feel more comfortable to do more, she adds, make sure you:
- Don’t bring anything unnecessary into a store
- Wipe down contact surfaces such as door handles, keys, credit cards, and grocery bag handles (especially if someone else bagged groceries for you)
- Have a hand sanitizer with you at all times and keep sanitizing wipes in your car
Cleaning and In-Home Tasks
Before anything else, take your dirty shoes off and clean them. Always make sure to wash hands, put on your mask, and then you can:
- Wipe down high-touch areas: doorknobs, faucets, counters, remotes, etc.
- Wash fruits and vegetables if you’re cooking and make sure to sanitize the cooking/prep area before and afterward
Virus Protection for Seniors
Seniors can be the most vulnerable individuals to infectious diseases, especially COVID-19. If you’re responsible for the health and wellness of an older adult, follow these safety tips:
- If you need to drive with your elderly loved one, avoid commuting with additional passengers
- Have your senior wear a mask whenever anyone else is in the house, especially if close contact is needed
- Don’t let your loved one go to the store, but “definitely go outside because fresh air and sunlight are essential to health and human life,” says Pineo. “If they are going for walks, have them go with a buddy – at a safe distance.”
- Reinforce hygiene habits: “If you’re taking care of someone who is forgetful or distracted, remind them to wash their hands after eating and using the restroom,” adds Pineo.
- Pay extra attention regarding hygiene habits for for bathing and other physical contact tasks.
“Use these suggestions as helpful tips, but follow CDC guidelines first,” Pieneo says. “These recommendations as well as CDC’s guidelines are useful in preventing the spread of any illness, not just COVID-19.”