In light of the recent spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus to many countries around the world, we would like to provide to you our recommendations for safety precautions. We are basing these recommendations on information published by the Rhode Island Department of Health and other industry sources. These recommendations are useful for managing the spread of not only the coronavirus but also any other airborne or contact virus such as influenza, MRSA, C-diff etc. While the vast majority of those infected with the recent coronavirus have had mild symptoms, the concern is that the virus may spread very quickly in the community particularly due to its long incubation period of up to 2 weeks before any symptoms show, during which time the infected individual is contagious and may spread the disease unless safety precautions are taken. Symptoms are generally low-grade fever, coughing and sometimes shortness of breath. Some people also experience fatigue, headaches and, less frequently, diarrhea. Seniors and those with underlying respiratory illness are being affected more severely.
1. Always maintain hand hygiene measures and respiratory etiquette
a. Proper and frequent handwashing is the best way to ward against this virus as well as the seasonal flu and colds. Remember that it takes a minimum of 20 seconds to adequately wash all surfaces of hands and fingers. When in doubt, hum the Happy Birthday song twice. That’s how long it takes to wash hands adequately. Per the CDC, healthcare workers who wear artificial nails are more likely to harbor gram-negative pathogens on their fingertips than are those who have natural nails, both before and after handwashing. Please, in the interest of keeping yourself, your families, and your clients safer, make every attempt to keep natural nail tips less than ¼ inch long, refrain from wearing artificial nails in any form, and keep jewelry to a minimum on hands and forearms.
b. DO NOT use shared towels; Home Instead will be providing liquid soap, hand sanitizer, paper towels, and disinfectant wipes for your use in your client’s home.
c. Keep hand sanitizer nearby and use it frequently whenever you are not able to use soap and water as long as your hands are not visibly soiled; after touching a client, providing care, coughing, etc. Remember that after 3 times of using hand sanitizer, it is time to use soap and water.
d. At the start and end of each shift, please use disinfectant wipes to wipe down surfaces such as tabletops, doorknobs, light switches that are frequently being touched. An initial supply of wipes, paper towels, and liquid soap has been secured for your use at your client’s home to protect you and your client. Communication is being made with your clients regarding maintaining an adequate supply of these items. Should you notice that there is a need of the supplies in the home please contact the Home Instead office and supply will be made to you.
e. When coughing or sneezing, do so into your elbow or a tissue and then throw your tissue in the trash and wash your hands at once.
2. If you are sick with a fever and respiratory symptoms, please call the office to report your symptoms. Also, please make sure you are registered with our free telemedicine provider, Healthiest You so that you can get a live consultation with a physician should the need arise. In order to register, please call 866-703-1259 or go to member.healthiestyou.com today.
3. When in public, it is best to distance yourself from others in lines, etc. by at least 6 feet to decrease chances of contact spread of virus. Use disinfectant wipes to clean the grocery cart when shopping. Avoid shaking hands or hugging as this can pass viruses. It is more advisable to smile, nod, or ”elbow bump” with peers and extended family.
4. If you or a close household member have recently returned from an area with a high incidence of the coronavirus, please be watchful for symptoms in yourself and call the office to determine whether self-isolation is necessary.
5. When caring for a sick family member or client it is advised to wear a mask to protect yourself and to remind you NOT to touch your face. The virus usually enters through the eyes, nose, and mouth of the host.
6. It is being advised that everyone maintain a two-week supply of food, water, and medications in their home in case the goods become sparse due to low inventory of the needed items, or they become ill.
7. Have a plan for your children who are in school and daycares that may be closed for a period during an outbreak and think about your elderly relatives and neighbors who may be dependent on you for care if they are ill. Try to have a plan for how to care for them during this time while protecting yourself.
8. Above all, and worth a second mention, hand washing and disinfection remains the best way to keep yourself, your family, and your client safe.