By now, most people have learned that the risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19 increases with age, according to the CDC. Underlying health conditions also increase the risk of severe illness. So, seniors should take care to be protected from contagious illnesses, including using extra precautions for keeping their homes clean and sanitized to prevent the spread of germs.
Residents of a senior community should be able to trust that common areas are being cleaned regularly and correctly. Some seniors may also have a housekeeping service that comes to clean their personal apartment. Those in assisted living or skilled nursing facilities may depend on cleaning staff for nearly all tasks. However, those in independent living can conduct some important cleaning and sanitizing tasks themselves.
Every little bit of cleaning helps when fighting germs that cause COVID-19 and other illnesses. However, the more effectively and regularly you clean, the safer your home life can be. In this guide, we explain the basics seniors should know about cleaning and disinfecting.
What is the Difference Between Cleaning and Disinfecting?
With so much news about cleaning and disinfecting, the terminology can cause confusion. Cleaning means to remove dirt or pathogens from a surface, usually with soap and water. Disinfecting refers to actually killing any pathogens — including harmful bacteria and viruses — using a chemical designed for that purpose. To keep your home as free from germs as possible requires a combination of cleaning and disinfecting.
What Cleaning Products are Safe for Seniors to Use?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published easy-to-understand guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting in the era of COVID-19. Their recommendations include a list of cleaning products, registered by the EPA, that the public can use for everyday cleaning tasks. This list applies to senior living residents as well as anyone. You will find familiar brand names here, like Clorox, Lysol, and Scrubbing Bubbles. It is a good idea to stock up on items like these since there is high demand and stores sometimes run out.
What to Clean at Home to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19
It is a good idea to practice general, routine cleaning tasks all the time for a healthier senior apartment. In addition, you should wipe down any high-touch surfaces after anyone visits, including home health aides, delivery people, or guests. Give care to door handles, table tops, light switches, and any dishes or glasses the visitor uses.
Many seniors prefer to order meals, groceries, or supplies rather than go shopping. In times of quarantine, this may be a necessity. If someone else comes into your home to drop off purchases, wipe down anything they may have touched, such as door handles. The COVID-19 virus lives shorter on porous surfaces, so the risk of contracting it there is lower, but to be extra cautious, dispose of boxes or envelopes and wash your hands after opening packages or mail.
Cleaning After Grocery Shopping or Other Trips
If you are going out, you will need to think about the items you bring home with you and their potential for carrying the virus. We now know that there is little risk of transferring COVID-19 on cardboard packaging (see the previous section). Still, when returning from an outing, such as grocery shopping, health experts advise that you put your purchases on the floor and immediately wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. Rinse fresh produce with water only, but there is no need to wipe down or wash other items. After you put away the groceries, wash your hands again.
Common Items Seniors Should Pay Attention to for Cleanliness
In addition to household surfaces, seniors should pay attention to cleaning and disinfecting the following common items.
Landlines and Cell Phones
Since any phone — mobile or landline — spends time close to the face and may contain saliva, it should be wiped down with a disinfectant regularly. Mobile phones need disinfecting after each time they leave home with you. To clean your cell phone, first, turn it off, then wipe it down with a small amount of spray cleaner or a disinfectant wipe.
Cloth Face Masks
Johns Hopkins recommends washing your cloth face mask after each time you wear it out of the house. Remove the mask by the straps, taking care to keep the outside surface from touching your face, and place it in the sink or washing machine. Follow the washing instructions for your particular mask; most cloth masks can be washed by hand or in the washing machine.
Sunglasses and Prescription Glasses
Glasses, including sunglasses and reading glasses, can transfer germs from your hands or other surfaces to your face. After an outing, remove your glasses and wash them with dish soap to disinfect them.
Purses, Wallets and Credit Cards
Money is known to exchange hands and touch a lot of surfaces where it can pick up germs. Those germs can transfer to your purse or wallet and could potentially be brought back into your home. Wipe down purses, wallets, and credit cards with disinfecting wipes or microfiber cloth and dish soap to remove germs.
Health, Safety and Cleanliness at Aviva Senior Living
Here at Aviva, the health and safety of our residents, whether in independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing or memory care, is our highest priority. We strive to maintain a clean, supportive environment and to provide education about healthy choices for seniors. Resident apartments are professionally cleaned once a week, with linens cleaned at no charge. Our communal facilities are cleaned twice a day, every day, with Department of Health-approved cleaners and sanitizers.