It would be impossible to provide an all-inclusive overview of even the basics of infection control practices in eldercare. Here are some good tips and indicators for preventing infections, says California Elder Abuse Attorney Steven Peck.
- Moisture is a breeding ground for bacteria. Take care of moisture cleanup promptly, including in the kitchen, at the dining table, spills on the floor, standing water, or stale coffee in a mug, moisture on and around faucets, countertops and tabletops. While you’re at it, don’t forget washcloths, damp or wet laundry and more. No need to panic or drive yourself crazy, just be mindful of standing moisture.
- Standing moisture and discoloration should be red flags, including any pinkish hue. Think salmonella, as in food poisoning cross-contamination.
- Check toothbrushes frequently. They can (and do) gather mold if the moisture and old food particles conditions are just right. Keep new toothbrushes on hand. Toss used toothbrushes regularly. I toss toothbrushes when the bristles start to bend.
- Disposable baby wipes are better than washcloths. If properly disposed of, they will not cross-contaminate other dirty laundry or your laundry hamper with added moisture and bacteria.
- If you care for and supervise an elder who is forgetful, medicated to distraction or simply distracted, listen for running water after the elder uses the bathroom. Running water may mean hands have been washed, though not always.
- Supply sufficient hand soap and paper towels in the bathroom. Like baby wipes, paper towels are disposable, which is why I prefer paper towels in our home rather than cloth hand towels.
- Before providing wound care, or any direct hands-on care, wash hands before and after. Know when to use latex gloves when cleaning or treating a wound. Avoid inadvertently transmitting bacteria to an elder’s wound, including through cross-contamination of surfaces.
Better safe than sorry. Don’t make infection control practices hard on yourself or your elder. Just try to not make yourselves sick. Practice sound infection control habits. Everyone will rest easier.
About the Author
Attorney Steven Peck has been practicing law since 1981. A former successful business owner, Mr. Peck initially focused his legal career on business law. Within the first three years, after some colleagues and friend’s parents endured nursing home neglect and elder abuse, he continued his education to begin practicing elder law and nursing home abuse law.