Infection Prevention Week: Infection Control in Home Care

October 16, 2023

It's International Infection Prevention Week, and today we're diving deep into the world of infection control. For Home Health Aides, CDPAP Personal Assistants, or anyone performing care for someone in their home, your role is incredibly important in keeping your client or loved one healthy and comfortable, so let's break down this vital aspect of home care!

Infection Control 101: The Basics

Infection control is all about stopping the spread of germs that can multiply rapidly once in the body. Think of infection control as your first lines of defense against the invisible microbes like bacteria and viruses that can cause infections. An infection occurs when too many microbes are allowed to grow in the body. This can result in symptoms like fever, swelling at the infection site, pain and tenderness, and other flu-like symptoms such as tiredness or body aches. If left untreated, some infections can result in serious outcomes like loss of limbs, organ failure, or even death. In home care, it's about preventing infections from happening in the first place, and ensuring the best possible well-being of your clients. So, what is infection control in practice, and how does it apply to home care?

Why is Infection Control Vital for Home Care?

Infections can develop more easily, and can be more severe, for people who are older, have weakened immune systems, or who have otherwise limited health and mobility. For these reasons, it's crucial to protect your clients or loved ones receiving home care to prevent infections. This way, you can provide the best care possible while keeping them as safe and healthy as you are able. The following are concrete strategies that you can employ in your day-to-day as a  caregiver. These strategies will go a long way toward reducing the likelihood on infection for your home care client or loved one. 

The Power of Handwashing

One of the most important tools in your infection prevention toolkit is handwashing. Wash your hands frequently throughout the day, especially before and after tasks like prepping meals or assisting with personal hygiene. Handwashing is a simple but powerful way to prevent infections. Wash for at least 20 seconds using antimicrobial soap, paying special attention to the palms, in between your fingers, and under your fingernails. You may also choose to follow up after handwashing with an antimicrobial hand sanitizer. 

Keep it Clean

A clean environment is a healthy one. Make sure to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs, switches, and countertops. Bacteria double in population roughly once every 4-20 minutes, so don’t leave it until later! 

Preventing Bedsores: The Extra Layer of Care In home care, one aspect of infection prevention that deserves special attention is bedsores. Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers, can be a significant concern for individuals with limited mobility. Here's how you can be their guardian against these painful, and at times quick-developing sores that can lead to severe infection, fast, if left untreated.  Frequent Position Changes Encourage your clients to change positions regularly, especially if they spend a lot of time in bed or a chair. This prevents prolonged pressure on one area of the body. You can help them shift positions and use cushions or pillows to provide added comfort and support. Skin Inspections Regularly check your clients' skin for any signs of redness, discoloration, or irritation, especially in areas prone to pressure ulcers, like heels, hips, and the lower back. Early detection is crucial for prevention. Keep the Skin Clean and Dry Cleanliness is key. Gently clean and pat dry areas at risk of bedsores, and use a moisturizing lotion to keep the skin healthy and hydrated. Avoid massaging bony areas too vigorously, as this can damage fragile skin. Supportive Bedding Encourage your client's family or loved ones to invest in pressure-relieving mattresses and cushions if possible. These can greatly reduce the risk of bedsores by distributing pressure more evenly across the body. Keep the Client Active Encourage light movement and exercises as appropriate for your clients. Even gentle stretches or range-of-motion exercises can help maintain skin and muscle health.

Vaccines: Your Secret Weapon

Vaccines are like your secret weapon in the battle against infections. They work by introducing a small amount of the dead germ that can make you sick into your body, so it can learn how to mount a defense if it encounters the living germ. Stay up to date with your vaccinations, for example your annual flu shot, and encourage your clients to do the same. It will help prevent you from getting sick, and if you do get sick, being vaccinated can help make your illness much shorter and less severe. 

Encourage Healthy Living

Eating well, staying active, and getting enough rest are the keys to healthy living, and building these foundational blocks into your clients' routines is like giving them a super boost. A balanced lifestyle built on the bedrock of rest, nutrition, and movement, keeps their immune system strong and ready to fight off germs that can potentially cause infections.

Hydration is Key

Staying hydrated is like giving your clients an extra shield against infections. Encourage them to drink enough water to keep their bodies in top form. A good rule of thumb is to have your client aim to drink half their body weight in ounces of water each day. 

Recognize Infection Symptoms

Being on the lookout for signs of infection is essential to ensuring the health and safety of your home care clients. If your clients begin to show symptoms of infection such as fever, cough, unusual sleepiness or lethargy, or anything else unusual, call for medical help immediately. This is especially important if the person you're caring for is older in age, experiences frailty, has a weakened immune system, or is managing a long-term illness. Reacting quickly to the first sings of infection is the best way to prevent negative health outcomes for your home care clients. 

Communication: Your Ultimate Superpower

Communication is key. Encourage and facilitate open and honest conversations between yourself and your home care client about their health, symptoms, and concerns. Together, you can be a dynamic duo in preventing infections.

The Heart of Infection Prevention

Infection control isn't just a job; it's a mission. You play a crucial role in keeping your clients healthy. By following these strategies, you can create a safe and healthy environment for those you care for.

Stay informed, stay safe, and make every week Infection Prevention Week as long as you're on the job! With these practices, you'll be the guardian of health and happiness for your clients.

So, here's to you, the unsung heroes of home care, making the world a better place one client at a time. Happy Infection Prevention Week!

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