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Be Well - In Home Caregiving

April 16, 2020
Categories: Health & Wellness

When a housemate becomes ill with a severe respiratory illness such as COVID-19, there are many things you need to consider as you care for them. You must do everything you can to prevent transmission of the illness to yourself or others. Take these steps: 

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water. Wash before and after being in the presence of the ill person. Wash immediately if you are exposed to contaminated items (such as used Kleenex or personal items). If soap and water are unavailable, use at least 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer. The ill person should also practice frequent hand-washing.
  • Wear a mask and gloves whenever you are in the presence of the ill person. Remove your mask and gloves (folding the items with the outside contaminated surface folded inside) and dispose of them in a sealable bag. Don a clean mask and gloves after every encounter with the ill person. Wash your hands before and after each gloving and masking. The ill person should wear a mask at all times.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose. These mucous membranes are a point of entry for germs. 
  • Do not ever share personal items such as eating utensils, drinking glasses/straws, food, toothbrushes, etc.
  • Ill persons should not perform household tasks, such as dish-washing, meal prep, or pet care.
  • Stay separate from the ill person as much as possible. Use separate bedrooms and bathrooms if you can.
  • No visitors should be allowed.
  • Always wear gloves when handling the ill person’s laundry. Transfer laundry in a basket so it does not come in contact with your body. Laundry can be washed with normal detergent and machine dried using the warmest temperature setting advised for the fabric. Sanitize the laundry basket thoroughly after emptying it of soiled laundry.
  • Sanitize all high-touch surfaces such as counters, handles, toilets, grab bars, phones, tabletops, etc. When using household-cleaning sprays or wipes, wear gloves and work in a well-ventilated space.

By following these guidelines, you reduce the risk of YOU acquiring the illness.

 If the person you are caring for develops worsening symptoms, such as high fever, difficulty breathing, weakness, or change in mental status, seek medical care.  If symptoms are life-threatening (severe respiratory distress, fever over 103, delirious) call 911 and/or the URA. 

What if I live alone?

It is highly advisable for you to develop a Plan of Support in advance of any illness, so that you have someone local “on call” in case you become sick and need assistance. This could be your Power of Attorney, family members, close friends, or a caregiving agency.  Independent Living Social Services can help you create your Plan of Support – call them at x7557.  

If you live alone, and especially when you are ill, please carry your SARA pendant with you at all times. If you are too weak to get out of bed or if you are experiencing respiratory distress, a new or worsening cough, a fever of 100.4 or higher, or any other serious symptoms, please press and hold your SARA button down for 3-5 seconds and the URA can help you access medical care. 

May Fall Prevention Tip:  A sick person may have reduced strength or balance. Always accompany them when they get out of bed.

Marla LeFevre, RN

Director of Health Services

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