Washing Hands to Protect Seniors’ Health — Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Remember when Lucy got licked by Snoopy and yelled “ugh, dog germs!”?

We all have germs, including us and our senior loved ones.

The spread of these germs can make our vulnerable seniors ill to the point of needing emergency treatment.

Human touch is one way we spread germs.

We as family caregivers need to wash our hands properly and thoroughly to reduce the likelihood of spreading our germs to our senior loved ones.

Expert Hand Washing Guidelines

The most important thing to remember about hand washing is to do it often, more often than most of us do currently.

We should wash before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after touching our mouth, face or hands; after caring for a wound or cut; after coughing or sneezing; after blowing your nose; after touching a pet; when assisting with toileting; after taking out the garbage; or anytime they become soiled.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offer specific guidelines to help us practice good hand washing.

  1. Rinse your hands under warm running water and then apply soap.
  2. Lather the soap between your hands, scrubbing your fingers and the front and back of your hands; don’t forget under your nails.
  3. Wash with friction for at least 20 seconds. That is about as long as singing Happy Birthday to yourself.
  4. Rinse thoroughly under clean running water, dry your hands on a dry towel or allow them to air dry. Turn of the faucet handle with the towel.

Wash Your Hands – But When?

Caregivers provide hands on care to their senior loved ones in a variety of ways.

They do tasks that they would never have imagined ever doing before. It isn’t just a matter of cooking dinner or dusting anymore.

Caregivers are not only doing activities of daily living to help their seniors but also medical duties once only the realm of nurses and medical professionals.

Caregivers need to wash hands properly not just to prevent the spread of cold and flu during the winter season, but all throughout the year to keep seniors well.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers these tips:

  1. Wash your hands: Before you prepare food, during food preparation and after food preparation
  2. Wash your hands: Before you eat (or give medications)
  3. Wash your hands: Before and after you help a sick person or care for a wound or cut
  4. Wash your hands: After you use the bathroom or change a diaper or help someone else in the bathroom (or provide medical interventions)
  5. Wash your hands: After you cough, sneeze or blow your nose
  6. Wash your hands: After you care for an animal or their waste including feeding them
  7. Wash your hands: After you handle the trash

If you and your senior remind each other of these special times to wash your hands, you may be able to prevent illness.

If You Can’t Wash Your Hands

Even though soap and water is the best way to clean your hands, you can use hand sanitizers instead of soap and water if water is not available.

Be sure your hand sanitizer is 60% alcohol.

Remember they do not remove all germs but can be good in a pinch.

Also, use caution by keeping hand sanitizer out of reach of a senior who might try to swallow it.

Additional Resources

We have some additional information about staying healthy and avoiding germs that you might find helpful: