How to Reduce Infection Risks for Seniors

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Infections can be deadly for seniors, as they can get infected easily. Maintaining proper cleanliness, hygiene practices and infection control measures in the home will reduce the chances of seniors and caregivers falling sick. We share some universal infection control measures that need to be practiced by caregivers.

The chances of seniors and their caregivers falling ill increase greatly if proper infection control measures are not implemented.


Seniors are more likely to catch infections than the young as their immune systems get compromised easily.


For example, many medicines typically prescribed to seniors can weaken their immunity as a side-effect. Many seniors undergo treatments, such as chemotherapy, or take immuno-suppressants for procedures, such as transplants,  which can compromise the immune system. For them, even a minor infection can be deadly. 


Therefore, infection control is a critical component of any senior’s care plan.


How do infections get transmitted?


There are several ways that germs get transmitted to and between people. These can include:


  • Through Air. A person can become infected by breathing contaminated air.
  • Through Physical Contact. Germs can get transmitted to people through touching a contaminated object, such as a doorknob, or another infected person.
  • Through Food. Many infections are transmitted due to the consumption of food or water contaminated with germs if they were handled or prepared by an ill person. 
  • Bodily Fluids. Blood and other body fluids can be infected with pathogens. When they enter the bloodstream of a healthy person, they can transmit disease.  Such pathogens can be found in body fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal secretions, wound drainage, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), amniotic fluid, urine, feces and breast milk. 
  • Cuts from a contaminated item. Cuts from items such as needles, knives, blades and sharp objects can put seniors and their caregivers at a very high risk of infection.


The top 10 universal infection control measures


Here are the top universal infection control measures recommended by experts that caregivers can incorporate into daily care routines:


  1. Wash hands with hot soapy water before touching food.
  2. Wash hands thoroughly after using the washroom or providing continence or personal care. Washrooms are among the biggest sources of infection in a home.
  3. Cover or tie long hair because dust and debris can get trapped in hair and later fall into food and contaminate it.
  4. Do not work in the kitchen if you have any infection such as a  boil, an infected wound, or an acute respiratory infection.
  5. Wash your hands, utensils and all work surfaces thoroughly with hot soapy water after they come in contact with raw meat, fish, or poultry to disinfect them.
  6. Regularly clean and sanitize all surfaces exposed to touch, such as doorknobs, appliance handles and light switches in the home.
  7. Separate fresh produce from frozen food and raw meats. Use different surfaces and utensils when preparing fresh, raw or frozen food items.
  8. Prepare and serve meals with minimum hand-to-food contact. This reduces the chance of transferring infectious germs between hands and food.
  9. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
  10. Keep unserved food covered at all times to prevent flies or insects from entering the food and leaving behind any germs.


Additional precautions to prevent infectious diseases


These rules above are not meant to be followed only when someone is sick in the house, but at all times whether someone is sick or not. Extra precaution is necessary if a senior, a caregiver or a family member in the home is already sick.


Here are a few examples: 


1) Wash Hands Regularly


At the very least seniors’ and caregivers’ hands must be washed:


  • As soon as you or the senior come back home
  • Before putting on fresh bed linens
  • After getting the meal tray ready
  • Before and after taking breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Before smoking (if the caregiver or a senior is a smoker)
  • After using the bathroom
  • After coughing, sneezing, or blowing the nose
  • After touching dirty objects such as soiled clothes, or dirty shoes
  • After picking up an object from the floor
  • After removing disposable gloves
  • After touching hair
  • Before applying make-up or lip gloss


2) Ensure hygiene


Bacteria and other pathogens grow and thrive in unhygienic environments. Here are a few guidelines on how to maintain a high degree of hygiene in a home:


  • Separate the seniors’ personal care items, such as toothbrushes, drinking glasses, towels, washcloths, and soap. Sharing these items is unhygienic and can increase the chances of infection.
  • Dispose of used tissues properly.
  • Separate clean and dirty clothes need to prevent any contamination while handling laundry.
  • While cleaning the living spaces, avoid stirring up dust. A good practice is to use a damp cloth OR wet mop to clean up the space.
  • Endure that you and the clients  groom regularly by bathing and wearing clean clothes.


3) Use Gloves


Gloves provide an extra layer of protection during caregiving. However, some precautions must be taken while using gloves.

These include:


  • If a glove tears, discard it immediately. Torn gloves cannot guard you against infection.
  • Choose gloves that fit well. Wearing loose or ill-fittING gloves will leave space for air to get in the glove causing increased chances of infections.
  • Choose the right material. Sometimes a care recipient or caregiver can be allergic to glove material, such as latex, so a caregiver needs to be sure what material gloves they need to buy. Latex allergy can lead to skin irritation and even anaphylactic reaction.
  • Replacing gloves regularly. Change and throw away used disposable gloves between tasks to prevent contamination.
  • Wash hands after removing the gloves. The gloves can have microscopic tears or holes which can be enough for pathogens to penetrate through. So washing hands after glove removal is vital.


4) Use hand sanitizers


Using alcohol-based hand sanitizers is gentler on the hands and can be used as an alternative to washing hands constantly. In certain situations, an alcohol rub is sufficient to kill the germs on the hands properly.


Bottom line


Infections can be deadly for seniors, as they can get infected easily. Maintaining proper cleanliness, hygiene practices and infection control measures in the home will reduce the chances of seniors and caregivers falling sick. Washing hands, maintaining a clean environment, using gloves and sanitizers are some of the critical infection control measures that need to be practiced by caregivers.


Want to Learn  More?


Please reach out to us at, or call us at 1-855-410-7971, and we will be happy to assist. You can find more caregiving tips in our information booklets and on our resources page.

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