Today’s seniors face all sorts of potential health hazards even if they don’t leave their homes. For instance, we’ve often mentioned the risks of falls to residents of Pasadena and elsewhere plus other environmental concerns that caregivers providing 24-hour care can be aware of.
One that Accredited Home Care also wants to emphasize is the risk of contracting or spreading an infection.
Infection has become a word that may even sound scary if you or your family member aren’t quite sure what it means. It’s also a general term for acquiring some sort of disease or passing it onto someone else.
Infections can occur with a bad cut or scratch that may have dirt, germs, or other contaminants in it. Bites or scratches from cats or dogs are prone to infection.
It can take the form of something biological like a virus or bacteria.
The COVID-19 virus has been a good example – it’s a new strain of an old virus and is believed to spread quickly via different methods, including contaminated surfaces and person-to-person contact which could be by touch or exchange of fluid (droplets from the mouth or nose). There are plenty of precautions to keep yourself from infecting others if you have it, or even better, possibly avoiding infection altogether.
Although new research into COVID keeps coming out, much of the advice for preventing its spread is similar to how to deal with or reduce the risk of other infections, such as:
- Clean common areas regularly. Soap and water are good for wiping down counters, drawers, tables, and chairs. Disinfecting wipes are good too if you’re able to locate some. This can also include commonly-touched areas like light switches, doorknobs, safety railings, and more.
- Restrict access. You may already be controlling who comes into your house to reduce exposure. You don’t have to be aggressive about it, like taking temperatures or reading rules out loud. But your guests should be understanding of your wish to not be infected, and also to protect them in case you’re infected.
- Practice social distancing when possible – which means not sitting close on the couch.
- Wear a mask when social distancing is not possible – 6 feet seems to be the standard although some research has shown that some strong actions like sneezing or singing can make germs travel further.
- Look for opportunities to visit outside such as on a patio. Not only will this keep people from entering your home but can provide pleasant sunlight, something else that has been connected to killing virus cells.
- Seek advice from health professionals. Providers of home health care have received training in infection control in different environments during their education, and perhaps recent refreshers because of COVID concerns. These nurses and other health aides can share what they’ve learned and give recommendations for good practices clients can follow to keep everyone safe. Most medical or nursing programs do require some sort of course on infection control, which can cover everything from dealing with bodily fluids to safely disposing of contaminated items like used needles.
This is an excellent month to learn more about infections, whether you’re a caregiver, a health professional, or a client.
Oct. 18-24 is considered International Infection Prevention Week, an annual commemoration of the importance of being aware and avoiding infection. The week is observed by a variety of medical organizations including the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. This year’s theme is “Break the Chain of Infection,” which describes an effort taking place in various medical communities to educate people about the steps that can be taken to cut back on infections in general. Participants can learn about different opportunities to learn more and spread the word, which can take place on social media, in clinics, and other health establishments.
It’s also an opportunity to recognize the role of infection preventionists, which are medical personnel who have had extra training in infection protocols.
Visitors to the official event site can also download an educational kit that includes posters, attend a live virtual chat, send infection prevention e-cards, and take an infection pledge. One pledge is for medical personnel and the other is for families/friends. Each pledge item focuses on improving hygiene and taking steps to keep infections away as much as possible, such as clean surfaces, getting vaccinated,
Health professionals have similar obligations, mostly coming down to practicing what they preach, such as washing their hands regularly, wearing gloves, and not being offended when a patient asks about their hygiene methods and current health status.
People reading about the pledges can print it out and refer to it regularly, or they can submit it through email to the association. The association also offers a variety of other resources about health and vaccinations in general.
To make spreading the word easy, people can print out posters and handouts to give to others or put up yourself as a reminder to yourself and others.