As we age our immune system weakens and our body is less equipped to fight off infections. Additionally, many seniors have chronic conditions like COPD, heart disease, diabetes or dementia. These underlying conditions can further weaken the immune system.
What is Infection Control
According to the CDC, infection control “prevents or stops the spread of infections in healthcare settings.” These healthcare settings could include the hospital, a long-term care facility, or even, in the case of home care, a senior’s home.
How Infections Spread
Three things are necessary for an infection to occur:
- Source: Places where infectious agents (germs) live (e.g., sinks, surfaces, human skin)
- Susceptible Person* with a way for germs to enter the body
- Transmission: a way germs are moved to the susceptible person
*A susceptible person is someone who is not vaccinated or otherwise immune, or a person with a weakened immune system who has a way for the germs to enter the body. For an infection to occur, germs must enter a susceptible person’s body and invade tissues, multiply, and cause a reaction.
What Are the Most Common Infections in the Elderly?
Seniors are affected most commonly by the following contagious infections: pneumonia, the flu, skin infections, and COVID-19.
Almost 1 million seniors are hospitalized with pneumonia each year in the US. Pneumonia is caused by germs that enter the lungs. This results in inflammation and fluid buildup in the lungs. The germs can be spread if the infected individual coughs or sneezes, doesn’t wash their hands, or shares utensils or cups with others. However, not everyone exposed to the germs will develop pneumonia. But seniors and others with weakened immune systems are at a higher chance of developing the infection.
The flu is a seasonal virus that occurs in cooler weather. It is caused by a virus that enters the body, and this virus can actually lead to pneumonia. This virus is very contagious and is spread through tiny droplets from coughing, sneezing, or even talking. These droplets can land on individuals or surfaces nearby. This virus is very common; however, seniors are at higher risk for complications.
Many germs actually live on our skin, which makes sense because our skin is the first barrier of defense for your body. Seniors are at a higher risk of developing MRSA, a contagious and dangerous type of staph infection that is resistant to some antibiotics. This infection is characterized by red, swollen bumps on the skin. These are often very painful and filled with pus. The infection easily spreads through contact with the infected skin or indirect contact with something that has been contaminated.
You may be very familiar with COVID-19 by now. It is a very contagious infection that can spread through individuals without any symptoms, which makes it difficult to prevent. Symptoms include fever, chills, cough, fatigue, etc. Older adults are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19. Getting very sick means that older adults with COVID-19 might need hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe, or they might even die. The risk increases for people in their 50s and increases in 60s, 70s, and 80s. People 85 and older are the most likely to get very sick. That’s why it’s so important to take special precautions when you are around seniors.
How Can I Prevent the Spread of Infection?
Here are some general guidelines to keep yourself and those you love safe when dealing with infections.
- Wash your hands frequently. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds and scrub with soap. Make sure to get in between your fingers and around your fingernails. You should wash your hands before you eat, after you use the restroom, if you come into direct contact with someone, if you touch your face, and more. If you aren’t able to wash your hands, make sure you have hand sanitizer.
- Wear protective equipment. When dealing with specific infections, you may need to consider personal protective equipment (PPE). This type of equipment includes face masks, face shields, gowns, gloves, and more. When around someone with an infection that can be spread through coughing and sneezing, you will want to make sure you have a mask or shield. If dealing with someone with a skin infection, make sure you wear gloves.
- Sanitize surfaces. Clean surfaces in the care environment regularly with an anti-bacterial solution. Hard, flat surfaces are especially susceptible to being sources of infection. Wipe down other common areas that people may touch as well because these could be hot spots for infection.
- Get vaccinated. If possible, get vaccinated against infections. There is a flu vaccine available every year, and the COVID-19 vaccine is now in distribution. These vaccines can help protect you and your loved ones from contracting and spreading illnesses.
Whether you are looking for a reliable nurse for different medical services, or a professional aide for personal care services, Gulfshore Home Care is here to help. Because every client’s needs and lifestyle are different, our in-home care team will provide services specifically based on your loved one’s condition and circumstances.
We are located in the areas of Naples, Bonita Springs, Estero, and Marco Island. Please do not hesitate to give us a call at 239-249-8318
With our home health care services you will be able to live a happy, safe, and independent life. We invite you read more about us. Every situation is unique, so to have all of your specific questions answered with personalized information from a friendly local home care expert, call 239-249-8318 now!