By Celeste Chase, AC-BC, ACC, CDP, CMCDP Lead Instructor:
Protection Strategies for our Aging Population Older adults are at higher risk for severe COVID-19, as well as other viral and bacterial illnesses. Experts provide guidance for our aging population on the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s affects. One message has been clear throughout: Older adults, particularly those 65 and above, are at higher risk for severe disease.

Why Seniors Are Susceptible
We already knew that older adults are at an increased risk for severe effects from viral and bacterial infections, from flu to colds or shingles to pneumonia. With age, the immune system ­becomes slower to respond to a threat like an infection, so you’re more likely to get sick and develop more severe symptoms. Because you have fewer immune cells, it may take longer to recover.

We know ­immune systems change with age, making it harder to fight off diseases and infection, even if otherwise fairly healthy. Older adults are also more likely to have health conditions, such as high blood pressure (BP) and (type 2) diabetes; both of which seemingly appear to worsen outcomes from COVID-19. But evidence suggests that certain precautions can significantly ­reduce chances of catching COVID-19, as well as other infectious illnesses.

Source: Michael Hoch­man, M.D., director of the Gehr Family Center for Health Systems Science and Inno­va­tion at Keck Medicine of USC in Los Angeles.

Let’s take a moment to review CDC recommendations to prevent the spread of this disease. Hand Washing- A Reminder While COVID-19 fears have spurred the practice of good hygiene, however, it’s a habit that older adults tend to need consistent gentle cues to practice daily. This all important preventative measure is one that is in need of year-round support to help reduce the risks of infec­tion from all types of germs, includ­ing those that cause colds, the flu, and gastro­intestinal bugs, and the current norovirus (Covid-19).

Please take a moment to review the following hand washing protocol as recommended by the CDC organization: Wet hands with clean, running water of any temperature. Turn off the tap, and apply soap. Wash for at least 20 seconds by rubbing soapy hands together, including the backs of hands, between your fingers, and under nails, to lift germs from your skin. Finish by rinsing hands—and resid­ual germs—off. If soap and water are unavailable, the CDC advises using hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol Instructors Note: For residents that may be somewhat non-compliant when it comes to washing hands often – use recommended hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol (according to the CDC).

Important: Dry hands because the CDC says germs can be more easily transferred to and from wet hands. Use a clean cloth or paper towel each time. Shared Technology Products Many facilities are ramping up use of technology to help our residents to remain connected to friends and family members. Most of these products have shared surfaces; screens and keyboards are touched by any number of staff members and residents throughout the day during their use. Even headsets, and other products, can be conduits for germs and easily spread from the virus from hands to the face (to self infect) or touching other surfaces (to infect others).

CDC also recommends cleaning and disinfecting high-touched areas such as tables, door knobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks—routinely, and perhaps daily if someone is ill or recently suspected of being ill.

Note: You can make your own disinfecting solution for surfaces by adding ? cup bleach to a gallon of water. Be sure to wear disposable gloves while cleaning. Inter-Facility Communication Devices Today, many healthcare professionals carry cell phones or other urgent response communication devices to efficiently receive notifications of situations that are in need of immediate response. Even regular personal cell phones are easily and often stashed away in the essential staffer’s back pocket while attending to the care of others. That said, these items may inadvertently allow the spread of the virus when they are not routinely disinfected during the course of their use throughout the day.

Healthcare professionals carrying these devices while giving care from one resident to the next resident must always be mindful of the potential for infection spread via these devices and exercise all infection control prevention protocols to prevent further contamination within the facility.

Note: A study published online in 2017 in the journal National Institute of Health, found that up to 86 percent harbor potentially harmful germs, such as staphylococci on cell phone surfaces

Recommended Disinfection: Wipe cell phone with 70 percent alcohol wipes several times a day, including each time you come in from outdoors. (A screen protector will prevent possible damage to your phone.) Personal Protection Equipment Keep in mind that although you may wear gloves to prevent contamination, germs may adhere to glove surfaces. Covid-19 is known to survive for a period of 72 hours on plastic. Thus, gloves should be changed periodically to prevent the continued spread of this virus. Additionally, be sure to follow appropriate glove removal protocols (to prevent self contamination) and, wash your hands. – apply all infection control practices (including proper removal of all PPE) worn throughout the day.

More Information is available on the CDC website: Have a topic request or question for Celeste? Send them over to American Healthcare Association’s

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