Have you ever heard the saying “cleanliness is next to godliness?” This popular saying highlights the importance of having measures in place to keep the environment where you care for your loved one or client clean. For example, routinely disinfecting the living space where your client or loved one receives care and washing your hands properly can prevent the spread of potential illness causing bacteria and viruses like the flu and the Coronavirus Disease. Like general infections (i.e., eyes, ears, and nose) and seasonal allergies the flu is short-term condition that is usually not life-threatening. In fact, with proper rest and treatment (usually an antibiotic or antiviral medication) your loved one or client will likely return to normal and resume everyday activities within a few weeks.  However, it should be noted that common infections like the flu can exacerbate your loved one’s more serious chronic medical conditions and these complications can end up being life threatening. The following are best practices for effective handwashing, the application and safe removal of gloves, the use of hand sanitizer, and tips for disinfecting your client or loved one’s living space.  

 

Handwashing

 

Washing your hands is the single, most important way to prevent spread of infection. The goal is to prevent the spread of germs, bacteria, or viruses.
When should you wash your hands?
It is recommended that you wash your hands:
Before and after eating; after going to the bathroom, after coughing, and/or blowing your nose.
Before and after providing care for your loved one or touching his or her belongings
After removing disposable gloves and after handling soiled blankets.

 



Tips for washing your hands
 
 
Turn on faucet.
Wet your hands including two inches above your wrist.
Apply soap. It best to use liquid soap.
Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. You might sing your ABC’s to ensure that you have washed them long enough.
Rinse off the soap thoroughly.
Pull down your paper towel and completely dry your hands.
Then pull down a final paper towel.
Turn off the faucet with the final paper towel.
You can use the paper towel to open the door and then dispose of it.
Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer handy

 

Hand sanitizer can also be useful in reducing the spread of bacteria and viruses. Especially when you do not have access to a sink where you can wash your hands. There are a variety of brands so it is important that you find one that works best for you. When using hand sanitizer it is important that you vigorously scrub hands together until product is absorbed and your hands/fingers are completely dry.
It is important to remember to wash your hands using the sink after three or four uses of hand sanitizer. You will notice that your hands become gritty from the buildup of the hand sanitizer after several uses.

 

 
Applying disposable gloves 
There may be instances where you need to use disposable gloves, specifically when disinfecting your loved one’s personal space and when assisting with personal cares. While there is no set procedure to applying your gloves it is important to make sure the gloves you purchase are the correct size, so that they are not too tight or too loose. You will know that you have the correct size gloves when you have a seal at the wrist. Gloves that tear or easily slide off should be replaced immediately.
 
Tips for removing gloves:
Pinch the center of the glove on your non-dominant hand and with one movement remove the first glove. This is termed the pinch-pull method where you pinch and pull your glove off in one motion.
Ball up the glove in your remaining gloved hand.
Without touching the outside of the glove in your dominant hand, slide your two fingers underneath and pull off the second glove.
Throw both gloves in the trash.
Wash your hands.
 
Disinfecting your client or loved one’s living space
You have likely developed a routine for general housekeeping. It is not necessary to take additional precautions unless you will be encountering soiled or dirty bed linens or other items that have body fluids on them (urine, stool, or droplets from coughing and sneezing). Under those circumstances it is important to wash your hands and apply gloves. You will also want to remove them properly and wash your hands after their removal.
Practicing good hand and environmental hygiene and implementing the precautions are the key to reducing the chance that both you and your loved one or client from contracting preventable infections.