Infection control isn't a magic formula. There are no special words to say, and no more thought required than common sense. For all that, however, it's difficult to explain why infections can spread so easily, so we thought we'd share a little of what we know about infection control, so if your older relative catches something, you can avoid it spreading to your family and potentially back to your recovering relative .
Train everyone to wash their hands properly
Your kids, your spouse - everyone who comes into contact with an infection - or anyone at all, really, should know how to wash their hands effectively. Hand washing can't be underestimated when it comes to keeping infections away, and it can be a fun thing to teach your kids - and one that could potentially save their lives and those of others.
This chart should help you get to grips with the exact technique!
Our care workers get special training to ensure they know how to wash their hands properly, so even if someone they look after suffers from a bowel, stomach,
or water infection, they are experts at making sure they don't spread it around.
Take care to dry your hands on a paper towel, too. If your relative has an infection, and you then wash your hands in the kitchen and dry them on the tea towel, you'll simply transfer any bacteria to the tea towel where they will multiply and spread again to food or utensils later.
Keeping your hands easily clean
If you regularly help your relative to wash, or you make them dinner, or assist with personal care of any kind, you'll need to keep your hands easily clean. The best way to do this is to ensure your nails are short and without polish, and to avoid wearing jewellery such as rings, bracelets, and wristwatches.
If you have any cuts or abrasions on your hands, you should cover them with a plaster. This means infection can't get into your bloodstream, and it also means your relative is protected from any infectious bug you might be carrying.
Using personal protective equipment
Some care workers think it's rude or fussy to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when working with their people, but it's actually a mandatory requirement to do so. One of the main reasons is to help with infection control.
The main piece of PPE that we all use is at Sahan Cares is disposable plastic gloves (as well as washing our hands) to make doubly sure we're not going to be responsible for causing misery elsewhere after we leave a house.
We also recommend using plastic disposable aprons which protect our clothes and the next person we go to see, especially if working with bowel care or anything else that involves bodily fluids. If anything unpleasant gets on the apron, it can just be thrown away immediately after we've worked with the person who is ill.
Using special alcohol rubs to kill germs
All our carers are equipped with bottles of alcohol gel, to kill any bugs on our hands that are left after we've washed them. That shouldn't be the case, but you never know - not being able to see bacteria makes the fight against them harder.
You can get some very cheaply at any pharmacy or supermarket, and you'll find a little goes a long way. Alcohol gel is also great for making sticky hands smooth again, so if you've got children, you probably already know about it.
Whenever your relative has an unpleasant bug or other infection, you should use copious amounts of the alcohol gel on your hands before you help him or her, as well as afterwards. This is because you can pass on a bug that they might find difficult to fight - especially if they haven't been well for a while; their immune system may not be able to fight anything new.
Alcohol gel isn't instead of hand washing, however. If your hands aren't soiled, feel free to just use the alcohol rub, but if they are, you should always wash them first, and back it up with the gel.
These aren't all the ways to handle infection control, but they're a good start in the right direction. If you need any more tips, why not tweet us at @SahanCares for more advice?