Family Resources Care Tips

Health Protection Steps To Take When Caring for Elders

Joyce Murphy, RN
June 14, 2022

Care Tips

Your top priority is to keep your elder loved one and family as healthy as possible. This means keeping everyone protected from viruses and contagious sickness. You want to do the right thing even though some messages about how germs spread are confusing. Health protection means having:

Your family caregiver role is different than that of hospital staff. Yet you are serious about being as careful as possible. You want to be sure that anyone entering your home does not have an infectious illness. You also want to have current, reliable information. That way you know your family will stay as healthy as possible.

Topics Include:

What Are the Steps to Take to Prepare My Home or My Parents’ Home to Be Safe from Viruses?

Fortunately there is a lot of information on how elders can be as safe as possible at home. This includes protecting them from viruses. The first step is to plan for a safe physical layout for your elderly loved one. This means taking steps that ensure their safety, such as:

Making these and other changes gives you the option of having your elder live at home rather than in a facility.

Your Loved One Has Their Own Bedroom and Living Space if Possible

Another option that promotes safety and protection from communicable illness is for your loved one to have their own space. This aids them by:

Consider if the Elder Can Have Their Own Bathroom

In some situations, having one’s own bathroom is a luxury. With an older person it means greater safety for:

Of course, adding or altering a bathroom can be costly. Sometimes there is not enough space to add even a half bath. When that happens, it’s time to consider the use of a commode. The benefits of this are:

How Can I Select Caregivers Who Will Keep My Loved One Safe From Contagious Illnesses?

Along with living space, safely hiring caregivers who will assure your loved one’s safety is a top consideration.The UCARENET Family Resource Center has several articles that offer helpful information.

Please be sure to check out UCARENET’s other articles and blogs! They contain information based on the experiences of other families seeking the best care for their elder loved ones.

Steps for Limiting the Spread of Infection

The steps you take to prevent or limit the spread of infection include:

We’re going to cover each of these topics in enough detail for you to feel prepared. This includes linking reliable sources for more information.

What Supplies & Equipment Should I Have to Protect Everyone?

Getting the right supplies and equipment to protect people from infections is an investment. That’s why it’s important to know what to buy. Some of the equipment may be something you buy once or twice. Supplies are the things you’ll use frequently so you may want to have some stored away.

Supplies to Have On Hand

There are certain things needed to protect people from COVID-19 and other viruses, like the flu. These are to be used by all ages, though usually not by young children, like those under two years old. The supplies listed here may not be 100% protective. The point is that their use greatly reduces a virus’s ability to move from person to person.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal Protective Equipment is called PPE for short. You may be familiar with the PPE worn in health care settings, such as hospitals. In this article, the PPE refers to the supplies that protect you and your loved one.

Information About Masks

Masks help to protect people from air-borne contagious illnesses. That’s because COVID and flu viruses can be inhaled. Caregivers and visitors wear masks at your elder family member’s home to:

There are different types of masks to have on hand for people who visit your loved one. If your elder lives with you, it’s best to require that anyone entering your home wears a mask.

Information About Gloves

The information you may read about glove use does not always agree. One caution about using gloves a lot is that it’s easy to get a false sense of security. One example is: Wearing gloves while washing another person’s face and then touching your own face. The following describes ways to stay safe while providing care:

Consider wearing gloves to keep from transmitting viruses when:

Note: Gloves need to fit well to be protective. That means having the sizes needed for you and the caregivers coming into your home.

You don’t need to use gloves when out doing errands or having coffee with friends. Wearing gloves during times like those won’t add to your safety. The best way to protect yourself is washing your hands a lot. Remember that applies to preventing influenza too. Keep hand sanitizer hand for:

Information About Gowns

Gowns are used to protect someone who is ill and their caregivers. Gowns are less likely to be used in home settings. They’re most likely to be used if:

It’s best to talk with your loved one’s doctor if they think that gown use will add protection for your loved one and/or others.

Thermometers & Self-Testing Kits

Thermometers and self-testing kits are two items important for keeping your loved one safe. This includes:


The no-touch types are quite reliable. They also offer protection as they don’t come into contact with a person’s skin. This Canadian company describes several thermometers, their prices, and where to buy them: You can also:

Follow recommended guidelines for what is considered to be an elevated temperature. These are easy to follow: Help the Patient Manage Their Symptoms. Remember that a person may have influenza or other illness that’s causing symptoms, including fever.

Self-Testing Kits

The self-testing kits are called Rapid Antigen Tests. These are the COVID-19 tests that can be done in a matter of minutes. You can do one on yourself or your loved one. Caregivers and friends can do their own at home before visiting if they have symptoms of a virus. These can be mild and still lead to serious illness, including the flu.

The Rapid Antigen Tests can sometimes result in a negative reading even if a person has COVID-19. If the test is positive OR your loved one, their caregiver, or household member feels ill, it’s best to call your doctor’s office.

They’ll likely advise that the person who may be ill:

Note: The doctor’s office or your local hospital can advise you where PCR tests are available.

Having a supply of self-testing kits on hand means that you and your senior member have an added measure of security because of the ability to test for COVID-19. You can:

This Government of Ontario Rapid testing for at-home use web page has clear information about rapid tests and COVID-19 risks. Please refer to your Provincial Government’s site for how to get rapid antigen tests in your area.

Illness Screening Setup in an Entry Area

An illness screening area in your home’s entry helps to reduce communicable illnesses from coming into your living space. This is where you can request people who are about to enter your home to be screened for COVID-19. That begins with taking their temperature and asking if they have any signs of illness or have had a recent exposure to flu or COVID. The supplies you need for this space include:

Cleaning Equipment & Supplies

Using household chemicals safely means balancing common sense with:

The Canadian Government site Use household chemicals safely list ways to stay safe, such as:

Steps to Take Before You Shop

Shopping for household cleaners that reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses can make a person dizzy. It’s best to be prepared and have a list to guide you when you head to the store.

Hard Surface Disenfectants & Hand Sanitizers

The lists for cleaning hard surfaces most often include those used in healthcare facilities. The recommendation for homes is to:

Hand washing and staying healthy lists the detail for ridding your hands of viruses and bacteria. As you read the instructions, take particular note to:

That same page describes the use of hand sanitizers. You can consider these as a line of defense when running water and soap are not available.

In Closing

As you can see, there is a lot involved with planning safe, healthy home care for your loved one. At the same time that you’re learning how to protect their health and well-being, you are gaining information to use with your whole family. It’s likely the most important thing you will do in the coming weeks.

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