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The Super Bug Scourge & Senior Care

The following article appeared on msn 9- 2-16:

Special Report: ‘Superbug’ scourge spreads as U.S. fails to track rising human toll

 

WHO just issued another report on 9-22-16 on the same subject:

United Nations high-level meeting on antimicrobial resistance

Antimicrobial resistance summit to shape the international agenda

 

The WHO reports are large, and multi-faceted. They refer to seniors but don’t dwell on them. Their reports are worth reviewing to better understand the extent of the problem.

Unfortunately, both of these articles related general information about all age groups, not seniors. Yes, all of us should be aware. However, seniors use the healthcare system more frequently than younger people (exclusive of infants). Thus, seniors stand a greater chance of requiring a hospitalization; where the super bugs live.   Senior tend to have weakened immune systems which can open them to infections. I recommend that caregivers be especially alert to what’s bugging their seniors.

An internet search for (super bugs seniors) revealed 10 references and 12 more pages!  6 of those articles on the first page referred to 1 in 4 seniors bringing superbugs to aftercare facilities or home with them.   Of those references, the one by Interim Healthcare, 3-16-16; How to control infection rates in the elderly after a hospital stay, had the clearest discussion on the topic.

Many articles encouraged senior patients as well as their caregivers to wash their hands thoroughly, with soap and water. We might be sure to wash our hands before and after our visit with the senior; how many of us help the senior to wash their hands? We should. Washing hands before preparing food is common practice. How many of us wash our hands after cleaning up? We should. Lately, washing hands has been replaced with the use of anti-bacterial soaps. Studies show these many contribute to breeding superbugs: back to soap and water. Some articles pointed out that certain superbugs live in the nose. Therefore, washing hands after blowing the nose or catching a sneeze sends these bugs down the drain. That goes for the senior as well as the caregiver. After all, what anyone touches, once contaminated, becomes a superbug haven. Some superbugs, such as MRSA, transmit through skin-to-skin contact. If the caregiver is treating a post-surgical site or a wound, clean hands and cleaned patient skin are a must.

Here are some other, practical ideas for caregivers moving a senior to post-hospital care or home recuperation:

  1. Bag it. Put personal effects in bags; then carry them. All kinds of surfaces can become contaminated. Bagging reduces that.
  2. Do not put personal items in the patient’s room until they have been sanitized. Even if those slippers look clean it doesn’t mean they are clean.
  3. There are many ways to get things de-bugged: sprays, alcohol, thorough laundering, (sometimes) exposure to strong sunlight and freezing. The CDC or your local Public Health Department has guidelines on their websites for proper sanitation procedures.
  4. Have the patient take a shower or wash and change clothes once they arrive (IN A SEPARATE SPACE). Bring them to the bathroom to wash, then to the bed. Bag those clothes and take them to the laundry and right into the washing machine. Handle as little as possible.
  5. Clean yourself as well. Once they’re in bed, shower and put your clothes in the wash. You’ve been to the hospital, lugged the bags to their destination, handled the senior and their belongings; you’ve got superbugs on yourself.
  6. Visits require three sets of hand washing, yours, the senior’s and the visitor’s. You do not need to give your visitors any superbug gifts. They should not expose the newly-released senior to contaminants.
  7. MONITOR the senior. Bowel issues, diarrhea or a temperature spike require an immediate call to the doctor.
  8. No small children as visitors for a couple days. Children are two-legged Petri dishes; heaven knows what they carry. They can say hello to their grandparents via Skype; it’s still resistant to superbugs. Children could also succumb to superbug infections, or carry contamination home to smaller siblings. Both are bad outcomes.

After a couple days to a week, if no symptoms appear, you, the senior and the grandchildren will all be in the clear. These precautions are not the way we used to do things. However, today’s superbugs require extra care.

 

 

 

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