Handwashing and Hygiene for Seniors and Caregivers

The Importance of Proper Handwashing and Sanitation for Seniors

In Health, News by Companions for Seniors

At the time we’re writing this post, coronavirus — also known as COVID-19 — is currently spreading across the country. While everyone is at risk of experiencing the effects of this new strain of coronavirus, seniors seem to be particularly susceptible to its most adverse health effects — and that makes finding ways to help elderly adults wash their hands, clean their homes, and keep up proper hygiene more important than ever. 

Even without the risk of COVID-19, seniors should focus on keeping their hands and living spaces clean and sanitary. Over time, the process of aging can bring with it a gradual decrease in immune function, a phenomenon sometimes known as “immunosenescence.” At the same time, many older adults are also facing a variety of complex challenges that can put their health at risk, including chronic diseases and other underlying health conditions, malnutrition, social isolation and loneliness, and a lack of physical activity. 

There are many important steps that people of all ages can take to minimize the threat posed by germs, viruses, and bacteria. Some of the most important action items include building good handwashing habits, and working to keep your loved one’s home surfaces and touch points clean and sanitary. 

Handwashing for Seniors: The First Step to Health and Safety

How much of a difference can encouraging your senior loved one to wash their hands really make? As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains: 

“Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water.”

Many of us unconsciously touch our hands and fingers to our faces, which can help germs enter our bodies through the eyes, nose, and mouth. Meanwhile, touching unwashed hands to surfaces — including handrails, table tops, or toys — can cause germs to transfer to the object, and then in turn spread to yet another person’s hands. 

According to the CDC, the simple act of removing germs through handwashing can help prevent “respiratory infections,” and may even help “prevent skin and eye infections.” With that said, it’s important to get in the habit of washing your hands the right way. 

The CDC recommends a five-step process: 

  • Wet. Run your hands under warm or cold clean, running water, and then apply soap.
  • Lather. Rub your hands together to spread the soap to the backs of your hands, between your fingers, across your fingertips, and under your nails.
  • Scrub. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds; that’s the length of singing the “Happy Birthday” song two times.
  • Rinse. Continue running your hands under the running water to remove soap.
  • Dry. Air dry your hands by shaking them off, or using a clean towel.

Handwashing is a good practice for all people who want to limit the spread of viruses and infections. That means it should not just be adopted by seniors, but by anyone who may come into contact with them throughout the day, including friends, family members, medical professionals, housekeepers, and professional companions or caregivers. When soap and water aren’t available, hand sanitizer that contains 60% alcohol or greater can be a suitable replacement.

While it’s good practice to wash your hands regularly throughout the day, the CDC notes that it’s particularly important to clean your hands at certain times, including: 

  • Before, during, and after food prep
  • Before eating 
  • When entering a new home or apartment, and before leaving
  • After handling animals, pet food, garbage
  • After using the bathroom
  • After sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose into a tissue

Sanitizing Household Surfaces and Touch Points

In addition to encouraging your elderly loved ones and all the members of their care team to wash their hands, be sure to regularly sanitize the surfaces and objects that they come into contact with most frequently. Where should you start? Here’s a practical tip from WebMD

“As a rule of thumb, any area of your home with high traffic and surfaces that get touched a lot is a germ bank.”

Often, this includes kitchen surfaces (including the countertops and the sinks), as well as common touch points around the house, including:

  • Remote controls
  • Door knobs
  • Light switches
  • Table tops
  • Cabinets and hardware
  • Computer keyboards
  • Faucets and taps
  • Pet toys
  • Phones
  • Wastebaskets
  • Toothbrush holder

As CNET explains, most of these surfaces can be treated with your favorite disinfectant products, including disposable wipes, disinfectant sprays, gentle solutions of bleach and water, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, or even simple dish soap and water. WebMD recommends regularly cleaning these surfaces as part of your household’s daily maintenance routine. 

In addition to disinfecting, there are also other straightforward steps you can take to help mitigate the spread of germs, including regularly washing and switching out used towels and washcloths, lining wastebaskets with antibacterial materials, and mopping floors. 

Have Any More Questions? We’re Here to Be Your Resource

Have any more questions about supporting an elderly parent, or finding ways to help them remain in their home safely and securely? Do you have an aging loved one who could benefit from the companionship and support of a trained professional caregiver?

Locally owned and operated in Chicago, Illinois, with clients in the city and suburbs, Companions for Seniors is a home care company like no other.

We offer a variety of services designed to help our clients remain in the comfort of their own homes, while ensuring that their needs are met. Our trained and bonded Companions are available on a full- or part-time basis, and can offer driving services in the comfort of a company car.

Our services are flexible, convenient, and it’s easy to get started. Companions for Seniors provides a free in-home assessment of your senior family’s current situation, and in most cases we can be up and running just two days. We understand that every situation is unique, so we provide a personalized care plan that’s modified to meet each client’s specific needs. As a client’s situation changes, so does our plan of care.

Have any more questions about all things home care? Ready to get help for your loved one? Don’t hesitate to reach out online today to get the conversation started, or give us a call at 866-910-9020.