Sometimes people wonder why they need to wear gloves while performing personal care on a family member. They think that because they are dealing with a family member and not a stranger that general PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) such as gloves aren’t necessary.
The truth of the matter is wearing gloves while providing personal care on a family member is very important to protect your family member from getting preventable infections that could lead to extended hospitalizations or premature death.
In case you’re wondering what I mean by personal care, I’ll let you know. Personal care includes;
- assisting with toileting
- perineal cleaning (the perineal area is the groin and anus)
- changing adult briefs
- wound care
- applying skin lotions and creams
Let’s face it, if your family member needs you to perform personal care for them that means their health is poor, and their immune system is most likely compromised. There are bacteria everywhere that a healthy person (with a healthy immune system) can defend against, but your family member (with a weakened immune system) cannot.
So, let’s start with the basics. Wash your hands, often. Before performing personal care, when preparing food, and after doing these tasks. This includes washing your hands after handling raw meats before handling anything else. Also you need to wash any surfaces or utensils used with the raw meat before using them for anything else. (Yes, by washing I mean using soap and warm water, not just a quick rinse of water.)
When providing personal care, wear gloves. If you’ve just finished cleaning their perineal area and need to do other care (such as wound care or applying lotions or creams to the body) put on a clean pair of gloves between tasks. This may seem excessive, but it will prevent the spreading of contaminants from urine or bowel (feces) to other parts of the body.
Click here for a good video showing the proper way to remove medical exam style gloves without getting anything on yourself.
So, what are these terrible diseases I’m talking about?
- E. Coli – which can cause urinary tract infections and diarrhea
- Streptococci – which can cause wound infections that may lead to sepsis (a severe reaction to infection throughout the whole body) and death
- Clostridium difficile (often referred to as C. diff) – severe diarrhea, colitis and death
- Mycobacterium – tuberculosis
- Staphylococcus – skin boils, pneumonia, endocarditis (inflammation of the sack around the heart), sepsis, death
- Candida – causes what is commonly referred to as a yeast infection which can be deadly to someone with an impaired immune system
- Listeria monocytogenes – diarrhea, can attack nervous system, death
- Salmonella – diarrhea, fever, death
This is what we need to protect our loved ones from when performing personal care on them. This is why we need to wear gloves and wash our hands often while providing care.