Disinfecting household surfaces for seniors

Disinfecting Household Surfaces: A Guide for Seniors and Caregivers

In Health, News by Companions for Seniors

At the time we’re writing this, people here in Chicago and around the world are looking ahead to “reopening” after the shutdown caused by the spread of novel coronavirus, COVID-19As businesses gradually reopen and the pace of life picks back up, it will become all the more important to properly sanitize and disinfect around the house — particularly in households with seniors. 

While the spread of coronavirus may be slowing down somewhat, health experts agree that this virus isn’t going away anytime soon —  and it is still incredibly important to be vigilant about limiting the spread of COVID-19 in our own spaces by practicing physical distancing, wearing masks and gloves, and, above all, taking some routine steps to clean and disinfect around the house. 

This is particularly true for homes with elderly residents, who may be particularly susceptible to the effects of COVID-19. In the early days of the pandemic, many families pulled their senior loved ones out of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, which have been hotbeds for the virus. Whether your senior loved one is aging in place in their own home, or living under one roof with you and your family, household cleanliness is more crucial than ever. 

So, what steps can you take to disinfect and sanitize your household, and keep your senior loved ones healthy and safe from the threat of infection? Here are a few “best practices” to keep in mind: 

Know the Differences Between Disinfecting Vs. Cleaning

From coronavirus to the common flu, many dangerous germs travel through community spread, landing on surfaces and getting passed through indirect contact. Regularly sanitizing these surfaces is a powerful way to limit the potential for passing along viruses —  particularly coronavirus, which may be able live on certain surfaces for days at a time.

One of the most important things to understand is that there is a difference bet ween cleaning and disinfecting  though these two practices can sometimes go hand-in-hand. 

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains, cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. As the CDC puts it, cleaning “does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.” 

Disinfecting, on the other hand, refers to using chemicals “to kill germs on surfaces.” According to the CDC, this process “does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs,” but by killing those germs, “it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.”

The best approach, then, may be to go with a one-two punch: Clean a surface with soap and water to help remove dirt, dust, and surface-level germs, then follow with a disinfectant to kill the remaining germs. 

Use Approved Disinfectants —  Safely and Properly

When you’re looking at the shelves at your local grocery store, it can be intimidating to pick out a disinfectant. With so many choices and options, how do you know what will really work,  particularly against a pathogen as new and unpredictable as COVID? 

To help make it easy, the EPA has a guide to disinfectants approved to kill the coronavirus, available in full here. As a rule of thumb, some common household disinfectants that can do the trick include bleach and rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol). 

Once you’ve selected a disinfectant, the next step is using it safely and effectively. Here are a few key guidelines to keep in mind: 

  • Watch your skin and eyes. Remember that disinfectants can be harsh. Wear protective gloves and eyewear if you’re worried about contact, and open up windows and doors to let in plenty of air. 
  • Don’t mix chemicals. Whether you’re making your own sanitary wipes or diluting bleach to wipe down a surface, remember that you should never mix chemicals with anything besides water. This can cause an adverse reaction that can be dangerous. 
  • Allow plenty of “contact time.” A common mistake people make with disinfectants is applying them and then wiping them off immediately. Instead, give the solution time to air dry on the surface, to make sure it’s doing the work of killing all the nasty germs and bacteria. 
  • When in doubt, read the instructions. Most household disinfectants will come with manufacturer’s directions, which will specify how to use the product, what safety precautions to take, and what surfaces you can and cannot use it on. 
  • Throw away soiled gloves and disinfectant wipes. Use a lined trash can, if possible, and try to avoid reusing wipes or gloves — which can actually help to unintentionally spread germs from one surface to another.

Create a Regular Disinfecting Schedule

Consistency is key! The CDC recommends creating a regular schedule for keeping your household clean and sanitary, including disinfecting regular touchpoints on a daily basis. This includes “high traffic” surfaces such as: 

  • Tables
  • Hard-backed chairs
  • Doorknobs
  • Light switches
  • Toys and games
  • Inside cars, trucks, and other vehicles
  • Phones, tablets, and touch screens
  • Remote controls
  • Keyboards
  • Personal mobility equipment (wheelchairs, canes, etc.)
  • Handles and cabinet hardware
  • Desks
  • Toilets
  • Sinks and faucet handles

Your cleaning regimen should also include “non-porous” materials, like furniture covers, towels, pillowcases, and sheets. In most cases, these materials can be cleaned by running the fabric through the washing machine or laundering them by hand, using warm water and detergent. If someone is sick, be sure to step up your cleaning routine, sanitizing surfaces in the hallway, kitchen, or bathroom as soon as the sick person is done using them. 

Wash Your Hands

Washing your hands is one of the easiest, most practical ways to limit the spread of germs. Be sure to wash your hands before and after tackling your disinfecting checklist, as well as at regular points throughout the day — including after you cough or sneeze, when you use the restroom, and when you come in from outside. 

You can find our complete guide to handwashing for seniors and caregivers here. As a general rule, the CDC recommends lathering your hands with soap and water and scrubbing for 20 seconds — that’s the length of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. 

Help Sick Family Members Keep Their Distance

Remember that distance can be key to minimizing the spread of COVID-19, and other viral infections. The CDC recommends that an ill person “should stay in a specific room and away from other people in their home, following home care guidance,” as much as possible. Equip the sick person with their own set of personal cleaning supplies, and encourage them to use a separate bathroom from the rest of the family if possible. Try to limit contact, avoid sharing personal items, and wash your hands regularly. For more guidance on caring for a sick individual safety, the CDC has more resources and information available here. 

We’re Here to Be Your Resource

Have any more questions about supporting an elderly parent in these ever-changing times? Do you have an aging loved one who could benefit from the companionship and care of a trained professional caregiver who understands the importance of cleanliness, sanitation, and personal hygiene? 

We are here to help. 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 clean 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 in 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 — whether you are empowering your loved one to age in place or helping them transition out of an assisted living facility and into home care.

Our companions are responsive and responsible, and we always place the utmost emphasis on protecting our clients’ health and safety — including practicing proper handwashing, being proactive about cleaning, and having back-up caregivers ready to step in, in case a companion displays any signs of an illness. 

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