How do we survive sick season?
No, people probably aren’t going to like it and, yes, they are probably going to fight you the whole way
The CDC says that cold and flu season PEAKS in November and goes through April. However, for SMA families the preparation begins long before that. We can’t wait until there is a sickness already upon us because by that time it may be too late. So we prepare. We prepare to become anti-social hermits, all to save the lives of the children we love so dearly. Whereas you can control who will socially enter our home, such as friends and family members, what do you do about those that are directly involved in the care of your child, i.e. therapists and nurses? There is a process that will help insure that your child will be exposed to as little potential for infection as possible. No, people probably aren’t going to like it and, yes, they are probably going to fight you the whole way. But in the long run, whether it is a caregiver or a family member, they should be understanding and cooperative knowing you have the best interests of your child in mind. This article will tell you ways to limit the amount of germs that will make it into your home.
It starts with you
Think about how you felt when you went to work before SMA became a part of your life. You walked in the door, not worrying about doorknobs or people in your immediate area. You put your lunch in the refrigerator or your briefcase on the floor. You got water from the water cooler or coffee from the coffee maker, not giving a second thought as to who may have touched that doorknob, water cooler or coffee maker before you. But you just picked up millions of germs, then you swept your hair from your face or put your hands on your forehead to massage away some stress. You have just transferred all of those germs to your face, giving them almost instant access to your eyes, nose and mouth. You pick up the phone to take a make a call, unaware that Billy from accounting, who just started antibiotics for a cold, popped in your office to answer to answer your ringing phone just a few moments ago. It’s not even 10am and you are already covered in billions of potentially infectious bacteria. Just imagine how the potential for bringing illness into your home increases after you spend another 7 hours at work, stop to put gas in your car and run into the grocery store to grab a few things for dinner. How do we break this chain?
- When you are at work, speak up. Ask coworkers to keep their distance if they or anyone they have been exposed to has been sick.
- Wipe off your work phone with an anti-bacterial cleaning wipe frequently throughout the day.
- Never sit anything on the floor, especially things you will handle or take home such as your purse or briefcase.
- Wash your hands and use sanitizer often but don’t forget to moisturize. If you clean your hands often, the dry skin may crack which makes another portal of entry for germs
- When you get home, take off your shoes, wash your hands and immediately change your clothes. Don’t wear your “all-day clothes” around the house.
- If you know you have been exposed to someone, you may want to shower.
- If you feel a little tickle in your throat or have had a cough/runny nose during the day, then mask up for the evening. It may inconvenience you but it may protect your child from getting anything you may have.
- Wipe off your phone, keys or anything else that you may be carrying around with you, especially if these items may be near your child.
These are just a few ways you can help stop the chain of infection.
No matter if you have skilled nursing, CNA, 24/7 or part-time caregivers coming into your home, there is always the risk that this person may also bring in those unwanted guests. There are some assistive caregivers that will become just like family to you and your child. This can be a very good thing in many ways. For this particular article, it may mean that your nurse(s) will take your child into consideration when making their own social plans such as asking their friends or loved ones all the same questions about illness exposure that you would ask if you were planning a social outing yourself. But there are also precautions that you can request your caregivers take and most will honor those requests without question or complaint.
* Request your nurse(s) shower immediately prior to his/her shift.
* Have all shoes left at the door. Ask them to buy Crocs or another pair of shoes that can be left in your home, thus ensuring cleanliness and safety with transfers.
* Your nurse(s) can also wear clean “street clothes” to your home and bring their scrubs in a clean duffle bag so that there are no external contaminants on their clothing.
* Make sure that all hair is either cut short or pulled up so it is off the collar of the uniform.
* Have antibacterial wipes available and request that pens, phones, and all other materials brought into your child’s immediate area be cleaned.
More often than not, your in-home caregiver will be spending several hours through the day/night with your child in your home making it more important that these precautions are closely observed to further safeguard your child.
Home Visit Therapists
Whereas it is not very practical to ask your therapists bring in and change their clothes for their 1 hour visit, there are other steps that can be taken.
* Leave their shoes at the door. It is also a good idea to have shoe covers to go over their socks. This will give them some traction, which is especially important on hardwood floors.
* Have all therapists, as well as anyone visiting your home, put on a mask at the door.
* Purchase long cotton lab coats, white if possible, so that they can be bleached between each use. Have the therapist put on the coat over their scrubs and button the front buttons. This provides a barrier between them and your child.
* Have them wash and keep gloves on for the duration of the visit.
* If the therapist touches his/her face, clothes, equipment, etc., then the old gloves should be removed, hands sanitized and new gloves donned.
These steps are not only good protocol during the sick season but year-round as well. This will help you establish a routine and produces consistency in what you expect from your caregivers. Remember to speak up, and do so confidently. You are your child’s advocate. As unbelievable as it seems, there will be those that will fight these very simple requests every step of the way. Be strong and unfaltering, as your child depends on it.