This is part in our series on professional infection control in eldercare. In today’s blog, we discuss decontamination prevention and procedures, including barrier precautions, the appropriate disposal of contaminated materials and equipment, and preparing soiled linens for laundry.Barrier Precautions
The need for protective gloves, gowns, and masks.
Often throughout your day, you will need to use personal protective equipment such as protective gloves, gowns, and masks to assist you with infection control & prevention.
Gloves allow you to create a barrier between you and the germs. So, let’s discuss tips for wearing gloves. First, you should wear single, disposable gloves when:
- Touching blood or body fluids
- You or the the care recipient has broken areas of skin
- You are assisting with personal care, such as cleaning stool or urine
- You are handling soiled clothing or linens
- The older adult has an indwelling device that you are helping to care for, such as a tracheostomy, central line, or indwelling urinary catheter
- The older adult’s hands, clothes and home environment are not generally clean
- Cleaning the bathroom
Remove gloves prior to touching non-contaminated objects. Remove gloves promptly after use and wash hands thoroughly. Do not reuse or wash gloves for any reason!
Before putting on gloves, wash your hands, then make sure the gloves do not have any tears or holes.
Taking off gloves tips for easy infection control
- Use gloved [right] hand to hold the [left] glove, near the wrist. Do not touch bare skin.
- Peel the left glove off from the wrist. It should now be inside out.
- Balled up the left glove in their right hand. Left it inside out
- Put two fingers of their left hand inside the right glove. Did not touch the outside of the glove with their bare hand.
- Peeled the right glove off from the wrist. It should now be inside out, over the left glove.
- Threw away the gloves in the proper place.
- Wash hands
Appropriate disposal of contaminated materials and equipment
Syringes or needles are called “sharps” and need to be disposed properly:
- Do not touch sharps with your bare hands. Use gloves and if possible, use a tool to pick them up
- Sharps containers can be purchased from a pharmacy or healthcare provider and should be used to dispose of sharps
- Fill the sharps container to approximately ¾ full, use heavy duty tape to secure the lid, and throw away with regular trash
- Keep out of reach of children and pets
- Always wash your hands after handling any medical sharps
Handling other wastes
- Body wastes such as urine need to be flushed down the toilet
- Soiled incontinence pads or disposable gloves need to be placed in plastic bags, tied and taken out to trash Immediately so that they do not create odors or grow bacteria in the home
- Mop water needs to be flushed down the toilet or thrown outside - never put it down the kitchen sink
Properly Caring For and Decontaminating Equipment
Make sure that you don’t reuse equipment that is only meant for single-use, and ensure you dispose of it as per the directions. Properly clean reusable equipment. Clean and disinfect surfaces that are likely to be contaminated with microorganisms, including those that are close to the older adult (e.g., bed rails, overbed tables) and frequently-touched surfaces (e.g., door knobs, surfaces in and around toilets) frequently.
Cleaning the Environment
- Wear gloves
- Mop up any spills with paper towels or other absorbent material
- You can use either a bleach solution (1 part household bleach and 10 parts water) or an Environmental Protection Agency approved disinfectant (eg. accelerated hydrogen peroxide) and wash the area well. If you are a professional caregiver, you agency may have specific guidelines about what to use.
- The amount of time needed for the bleach to work is the amount of time it takes the surface to air dry after you have washed it with the bleach solution
- Bleach solution needs to be put into a spray bottle, labeled, and a fresh supply made every 24 hours
- Dispose of gloves, soiled towels and other waste in sealed double plastic bag
Preparing soiled linens for laundry
If you have linens that are soiled with body fluids, such as feces, urine, vomit, you should take the following steps to ensure infection control:
- Put on gloves before handling soiled linens and carry at arms’ length (not against your clothing)
- Put linens in a plastic bag, NOT on the floor, and take them to the bathroom
- Rinse the large solids out in the toilet and place the soiled linens back in the plastic bag
- Launder immediately, using bleach if linens are white. If the sheets are colored, make sure they are dried completely in the dryer (the heat is as effective as bleach in killing the bacteria). Hanging clothes out on a clothesline will also kill the bacteria.