Many people ask how we are keeping home care clients safe during the Covid crisis. Most home care agencies serve the elderly population and they are the most vulnerable when it comes to Covid. Hopefully, this will put people’s minds at ease to know that the CDC has guidelines specifically made for home health care workers in these trying times and agencies are taking them very seriously. Providing care in a person’s home is a unique challenge all the time but especially now, there are no closets of personal protective equipment to get, there are no negative pressure rooms in a home. Home care has to go back to the basics of infection control and so far it has been effective.
The very first and most important line of defense for a client receiving home care is for the caregiver to wash their hands upon entering the home. At the bathroom or kitchen sink with good old soap and water before touching the client or any of their belongings. A 2013 study had trained observers watch 3700 people wash their hands and only 5% actually did it correctly. One in 10 did not wash at all after a trip to the restroom! The study showed that water temperature did not matter, liquid soap was the most effective cleanser at reducing bacteria and that we should wash for at least 20-30 seconds. Healthcare providers should adhere to a common sense practice of washing their hands upon entering the home and again before leaving the home in an effort to prevent the spread of infection from client to client.
All caregivers entering the home should be wearing a mask. N95 masks and true surgical masks are not necessary for the general public. What we do know, is that when the general public wears even cloth masks the rate of infection goes down, the mortality rate goes down, and possibly even the severity of the infection is less if you are infected. We know that masks work to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses via droplets and we have known this for many years. Mask use started originally in 1899 by a doctor working with TB who developed the droplet theory of infection. Out of the 3 major CDC guidelines for everyone, mask wearing is believed to be the most overall effective way of preventing the spread of Covid.
It is highly recommended that if you are working in healthcare, you abide by the social distancing guidelines that have been put out for the public. If you are working in healthcare and not abiding by those suggestions to avoid crowded and public spaces then you are putting every patient you care for at risk. If you are receiving home health care and do not see these things being done speak up for yourself and your safety! As always, be your own healthcare advocate and do not allow people in your home without following these basic rules for infection control. Stay safe!