Infection Control: Hand Washing Tips for Seniors and Caregivers

Seniors often have weakened immune system which makes them more susceptible to infections. Caregivers can easily pass on an infection to their patients or loved ones if they are not careful so it is important for seniors and caregivers to know how to properly wash their hands.  In this article we would like to offer some hand washing tips for seniors and caregivers to help control the spread of infections.

When (Caregiver)

The most important thing for caregivers to know is when to wash their hands. Germs can live on many different surfaces and can easily be spread from one person to the next through physical contact, so it is important for caregivers to know when they should wash their hands. Many people make the mistake of thinking that it is ok to only wash their hands after using the restroom or when they get something on their hands. Both of those scenarios are good times for caregivers to wash their hands, but there are many other times that hand washing is required. Caregivers should also wash their hands before attending to their patient or loved one (especially if they are caring for multiple people), before and after handling food, before and after touching or dressing a wound on themselves or their loved one,  after toileting, showering or transferring a loved one, after changing soiled clothing or bed linens (again, especially if caring for multiple people), after coughing, sneezing, or blowing their nose, after touching anything that may be considered dirty, after handling garbage, after removing disposable gloves and after touching their hair or face.  It is easy for caregivers to forget to wash their hands during the day especially when they are very busy, but doing so can cause germs to be spread to their loved ones or patients which can cause them to become very sick.

 How (Caregiver)

It is also important for caregivers to know how to properly wash their hands.  Simply rinsing the hands off with cool water is not enough to properly disinfect the hands.  Caregivers should wash their hands with soap and warm water for at least a minute each time they wash their hands.  Some sources say that 20 seconds is enough time to kill germs when washing the hands, so caregivers can take this into consideration and find an amount of time that works for them. Caregivers can also consider using an alcohol based hand sanitizer if they do not have the time to access a sink repeatedly throughout the day. Hand sanitizers that contain 60-95% alcohol are the most effective substitute for hand washing, so caregivers should keep that in mind when making their selection. Just like with hand washing, there is also a proper way to disinfect the hands using hand sanitizer. Caregivers should pump a decent amount of hand sanitizer into their hand based on the size of their hand to start with. Using too little does not allow the entire hand to be cleaned, but using too much makes it hard for the hand sanitizer to dry so it is important to find the right amount. Caregivers should rub the sanitizer on their hands until their hands are dry and they should make sure that they clean in between their fingers as they would with hand washing and also the wrists, especially if they have been wearing disposable gloves.

 When (Seniors)

Most seniors will not have to wash their hands as often as their caregivers since they are not touching as many things during the course of a day, but there are still plenty of times when seniors should wash their hands.  The most important times for seniors to wash their hands are after using the restroom or after they sneeze, cough or blow their nose. Even though caregivers understand that seniors have a cold it is still polite for seniors to wash their hands so that they will not pass on their germs to their caregivers. Seniors should also wash their hands before and after eating and anytime they do any type of cleaning around the house if they are able to do household chores. Seniors should follow the same tips for washing their hands as caregivers and can consider keeping hand sanitizer near them if they know that they have a cold and will need to sanitize their hands frequently.

 Seniors and caregivers should keep in mind that properly washing their hands is important for their health and is the best way to prevent infections from spreading. Even if seniors or caregivers do not think that it is important for them to wash their hands, they should make sure that they do it anyway as a courtesy to others and so that they are not spreading germs around that could cause others to become ill.

 Additional articles and tips for seniors and caregivers in our home care services blog: