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COVID-19: Spring Cleaning for Seniors and Those with Alzheimer’s or Dementia

COVID-19: Spring Cleaning for Seniors and Those with Alzheimer’s or Dementia

Featured image by Monfocus from Pixabay

It’s time for a spring cleaning! Historically, the spring cleaning ritual was performed to address the dark soot from candles and kerosene lanterns that had built up over the winter months. But today, this yearly ritual can still give your patient or loved one that spring-fresh feeling and uplift their spirits. And it’s healthy for them, too!

In the days of COVID-19, this ritual takes on new importance — deep cleaning to disinfect hidden places the virus may be lurking.

One of the biggest components to staying healthy in the COVID-19 epidemic is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for hygienic practices. Seniors and those affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia may have difficulty retaining these detailed instructions. As you try to teach them these important guidelines, you may become so absorbed that you fail to keep track of your own hygiene practices. When working with a patient or loved one, their health is very much in your hands, so you must be careful to never let your guard down.

Before You Do Anything, Take Precautions

Being a caretaker in the days of COVID-19 is indeed a challenge. It might be tempting to just quickly take care of a small task, like putting dishes away, without following CDC-recommended guidelines. When you are in the residence of your patient or loved one, it is essential to protect them (and yourself) at every moment, no matter how inconvenient it may be.

Always be sure to:

  • Wear a face covering or mask at all times while you are on the premises.
  • Wear nitrile gloves when cleaning or touching soiled objects or surfaces. Remove them after each task, dispose of them properly, then wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Maintain social distancing between yourself and your patient or loved one as much as possible.
  • Open a window to facilitate air circulation while you are at the residence.
  • Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or more at these key times, according to the CDC:
    • Before, during, and after preparing food
    • Before eating food
    • After using the toilet
    • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
    • Before and after caring for someone who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
    • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
    • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
    • Before and after treating a cut or wound
    • After handling pet food or pet treats
    • After touching garbage
  • It is also a good idea to wash your hands at these times:
    • After cleaning
    • Before and after using your cellphone, tablet, or computer
    • After handling mail or packages
    • Before and after putting groceries away
    • After you have come in from the outdoors
    • After you have touched the faucet or commonly used items or surfaces
    • After cleaning activities
    • After touching your face or hair

IMPORTANT: Try to avoid all physical contact with your loved one or patient. If you must do so, be sure to wash your hands before and after.

Deep Clean Home Surfaces

Evidence suggests that transmission via surfaces is possible, though it is not the most common means of infection. COVID-19 has been shown to survive on surfaces like metal and plastic for up to 72 hours. The CDC suggests that the use of a disinfectant alone is not enough to kill the virus, and thus recommends cleaning first with soap and water, followed by a disinfectant. Not all disinfectants are alike, however, so you should use any of the disinfectants on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)

You can also make a bleach solution, using the CDC-recommended formula of 5 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of room temperature water or 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart. These solutions are effective for up to 24 hours.

You should always wear nitrile gloves when performing any household task, then wash your hands with soap and water after removal. A common mistake many people make when wearing nitrile gloves is to think they are protected as long as they are worn. But if you wear the gloves all day, moving from task to task, you are essentially spreading the virus on all the surfaces you touch, which could increase the chances of infection.

Pay Special Attention to Hot Spots

These are places we tend to overlook, but they are infamous hotbeds for viruses and bacteria. Be sure to give these items a thorough cleaning at each visit.

Remote control sitting on top of television schedule
Be sure to wipe down those Hot Spots Image by Ron Porter from Pixabay
  • Remote controls
  • Light switches
  • Door handles
  • Toilet flush handles
  • Faucet handles
  • Electronics
  • Computer keyboards
  • Cellphones and tablets
  • Refrigerator door
  • Sponges
  • Dishtowels
  • Coffee maker
  • Kitchen sink
  • Toothbrush holder
  • Kitchen counter

As a general rule, it’s a good idea to replace dish towels and sponges each time for extra protection.

Clear floor space and give floors a good cleaning

Seniors or those with other disabilities may tend to move items close to their bedside or sofa for the sake of convenience, as it may be difficult or painful for them to get up easily. When many items pile up, things can easily fall to the ground, which can be a hazard. Remove any fallen items from the floors, wash and sterilize them, then return them to the safe place where they can still be easily accessed. Especially in cases of those with Alzheimer’s and dementia, moving commonly used items to a different location may cause unnecessary stress, so try to avoid this if possible.

Once the floors have been cleared, give them a good cleaning, using warm soap and water to kill the virus, followed by an EPA-approved disinfectant against COVID-19. For carpeted areas, run a vacuum with a HEPA filter over the area several times, moving slowly to pick up more debris. If possible, wash the carpet with soap and water or use a steam cleaner.

Rotate Clothing

After you’ve done the hard part, you can move on to more traditional chores in the typical spring cleaning. Instantly create more space in closets and drawers by putting away those bulky sweaters and coats and bringing out summer clothing. If you are taking items out of storage, launder at as high a temperature as the clothing will allow to help kill the virus. Never shake dirty laundry, as this may make the virus airborne, and thus result in infection.

Image by MikesPhotos from Pixabay

Organize drawers and closets

Clutter can easily build up in drawers, making it frustrating for your patient or loved one to find items. But do not throw things out haphazardly — that old movie ticket stub that looks like garbage to you may possess deep sentimental value to that person. Collect items in question for review with your loved one or patient. Try to organize items within their respective drawers rather than move them around too much. Those with memory issues, such as a patient with Alzheimer’s or dementia, may rely on years of habit to know where an item is located.

Spruce It Up

These are hard times, and many seniors in nursing homes or assisted living facilities cannot go outside, or even leave their rooms. If your loved one or patient doesn’t have allergies, consider bringing a little of the outdoors in! Think lilac boughs, a branch of flowering crabapple, or a big bunch of sunny daisies. Whatever you choose, you’ll be sure to add a little sunshine to their day!

Remember to Reach Out for Help

As part of comprehensive home care service, Advantage Home Care caregivers help seniors with light housekeeping and laundry service to ensure their homes remain clean and organized”. You can contact them at 207-838-8975 or at [email protected]

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