Home care staff are working on the front line with older adults who are more vulnerable to the risks of COVID-19, it is, therefore, crucial that your staff are equipped with the skills and knowledge to minimise both the threat to clients and themselves.
Here’s how you can support your care staff in minimising, identifying and responding to the threat of COVID-19.
To minimise the spread of COVID-19 providing training on how to recognise the symptoms of the virus is essential. Care workers need to be aware of the most common symptoms of COVID-19, these include the recent onset of a new continuous cough and/or high temperature. There are a few apps on the market that have launched viral symptom checklists to help identify COVID-19. We’ve just released one at Birdie in the Care Log section of the app. Care workers will be able to report on viral symptoms by selecting those from a handy list and sharing this information in real-time with office staff with just a few taps. Care managers will be alerted if any symptoms are recorded as positive, and be able to take the necessary actions instantly. This will provide some additional reassurance to your care workers that viral symptoms are being responded to.
Ensure your staff are up to date with effective hand hygiene practice. Care workers should wash their hands more often than usual, for 20 seconds using soap and hot water, particularly after coughing, sneezing and blowing your nose, or after being in public areas where other people are doing so. Care staff should use hand sanitiser if they do not have access to soap and water. To reduce the spread of germs when coughing or sneezing, care workers should cover their mouth and nose with a tissue, or sleeve.Please follow official NHS guidance on How to wash your hands if you are unsure of how to train staff.
We understand that you may be having issues with personal protective equipment (PPE) stock at present, however where possible care workers should use PPE for activities that bring them into close personal contact, such as washing and bathing, personal hygiene and contact with bodily fluids. Please see our blog on Where to find PPE? A guide to resources and where to find them for more information.
If care workers undertake cleaning duties for someone with viral symptoms, then they can use standard household products, such as detergents and bleach. These products are effective in getting rid of most viruses or bacteria found on surfaces. Personal waste and disposable cleaning cloths should be stored securely within disposable rubbish bags, tied securely and kept separate from other waste. Bags should be set aside for at least 72 hours before being disposed of in a household waste bin. It may be useful for care workers to leave a note of instruction for the next carer or a family member to dispose of these.
If a care worker supports an individual with laundry it is advisable not to shake dirty laundry to minimise the possibility of dispersing the virus through the air. If the individual does not have a washing machine, wait 72 hours (after the 7-day isolation period has ended) to take the dirty laundry to a public launderette. Items significantly soiled with body fluids, for example, vomit or diarrhoea, or items that cannot be washed, should be disposed of (assuming the client is happy with this) .
If a care worker has symptoms, however mild, it is really important that they are encouraged to stay at home and not leave their house for a period of 7 days from when the symptoms started .
For more information specifically on types and the use of personal protective equipment please view our recent article, PPE: Guidance on correct use - a live Q&A with Claire Sutton from National Care Forum and Digital Social Care.