This article was originally published on Route65.ca.
As British Columbia continues to adapt to a new COVID-19 reality, many seniors and their families are asking if home care and home support services are still safe.
Families are rightfully concerned, as we know that the virus is most dangerous for seniors, and people with certain chronic health conditions. However, home health organizations are putting significant measures in place to ensure that clients and staff stay safe, and that seniors can get the support they need to remain safe in their communities.
Here are a few questions you can ask your home support provider to ensure that they have policies in place to protect against COVID-19:
Question: Are staff regularly screened for possible symptoms of COVID-19?
The organization should indicate that staff are screened before each shift. This will either take the form of a self-screening or will be done by phone by another member of staff.
Question: What is your policy on handwashing?
There should be a policy in place to ensure regular handwashing. It should require staff to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and water. If this is not possible hand sanitizer may be used if the person’s hands are not visibly soiled. Employees should wash their hands when entering and leaving a client’s home, and before and after contact with the client or their belongings.
Question: What happens when a worker is sick?
A clear policy should be in place, so that sick workers do not visit clients.
Question: How are your workers educated about COVID-19?
Here, you are looking for evidence that staff are properly trained in infection prevention and control practices. This should include reminders and refreshers.
Question: Does your organization have a policy on when personal protective equipment should be used?
The organization should have guidelines in place as to when PPE should be used, and how it should be used safely (e.g., how it is put on and taken off).
It is also important that you do your best to keep care workers safe.
Here are a few tips from SafeCare BC:
Wash your hands with soap and water regularly for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand rub
If you have new or worsening shortness of breath, cough or fever, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, or muscle aches, or someone in your household is sick, contact your home support worker in advance of their visit, so they are prepared.
If someone in your household is sick, have them stay in a separate room away from where care is being provided by your support worker. If that’s not possible, have the member of your household wear a mask for the duration of the visit and have them wash their hands.
In short, there are measures we can all take to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Appropriate policies and procedures, along with good client practices, can ensure that home support is delivered as safely as possible so that the risk of COVID-19 is significantly reduced and seniors can continue to receive the support they need to live well.