PPE Ideas for Home Care Agencies
March 27, 2020
Here’s what Honor is doing to get personal protective equipment to our clients, caregivers, and agency partners.
As the novel coronavirus continues to spread, having a policy for when your caregivers must use personal protective equipment (PPE)—and a plan for how to get the masks, gloves, and gowns you need—is vital. While there’s a global shortage and limited availability of PPE, especially masks, you can find new sources and suppliers if you’re tenacious and creative. Here’s what’s working for us.
Clarify your agency’s PPE policy.
If you don’t already have a policy on when PPE is required for your caregivers, you need to develop one now. We require our Care Pros to use gloves and gowns when doing any type of personal care—toileting, bathing—for all of our clients. We also require PPE for clients with infectious illnesses. Normally, it would be the client’s responsibility to pay for and provide all PPE for care visits. But these are not normal times. And individual clients who typically order in smaller volumes may have an even tougher time purchasing PPE now. So Honor is getting more involved, helping our partner agencies to source new masks, gloves, and gowns and sharing these supplies with our clients when needed. Once you’ve set your PPE policy, then be sure all of your caregivers—whether currently working for you or not—and all of your clients understand and follow it.
Anticipate your PPE needs.
Right now, when you’re trying to procure gloves, gowns, and especially masks, it’s crucial to think ahead—and to think outside the box. First, you’ll want to know your current inventory of specific PPE items and have a good estimate of your needs in the immediate future. This will be different for every agency, depending upon your PPE policy and your current clients. Here are some general guidelines:
- Try to keep a 3-4 day supply on hand—and plan for an increase in clients with flu-like symptoms.
- Order frequently to keep PPE supplies on hand. But don’t hoard. Health care workers on the frontlines, facilities, and other agencies need them too, maybe even more than you do right now.
- Follow local health department updates closely each day. If there’s an announcement about PPE availability near you, be ready to jump in the car and get it now.
Get creative when sourcing PPE.
Now more than ever, we need to work together for the good of all of our clients, our caregivers, and our industry. Here are some tips for creative sourcing of PPE.
- Work with other agencies in your community to share extra supplies.
- Look for face masks and gloves in new places. Try hardware and paint stores, dental supply sites, restaurant supply companies, nail supply sites, and any other way you can think of to source masks and gloves. With many businesses currently closed due to shelter-in-place orders, these types of supply chains may have extra PPE.
- Have any friends or neighbors who own restaurants or bars? Ask them if you can buy any overstock of gloves, masks, and wipes they may have on hand.
- When shopping online, try multiple supply channels—not just the first 10 that pop up on Amazon. You’ll still need supplies next month, so it’s a good idea to find multiple sources that can deliver so you can meet your ongoing PPE needs.
- If you’re in California, ask everyone you know if they have new N95 masks leftover from the wildfires last year and if they would be willing to donate them to your agency.
Supporting our Honor Care Network Partners.
Here’s an example of the guidance that we’re currently sharing with our agency partners:
- Normally, it’s the client’s responsibility to provide PPE for Care Pros. But nothing is normal now. If a client or their family can’t source PPE on their own or via their medical provider during this crisis, we count on our Partners to help.
- Care Pros providing personal care must use gloves and gowns in accordance with our standard operating practice. Plan on two pairs of gloves and two gowns per visit.
- If a client has flu-like symptoms, both the Care Pro and the client must wear a mask throughout the visit.
Providing clear guidance to our Care Pros.
We’re documenting our PPE guidelines and making sure all clients and caregivers are aware of them.
PPE protocols. Care Pros are required to wear a mask, gown, and gloves when interacting with any client exhibiting flu-like symptoms. We know masks are in short supply, so we have teams within Honor dedicated to helping source them for clients who can’t find them.
Thermometers. We're working on getting thermometers out to all of our Care Pros—and will soon require a temperature check in addition to our new pre-check-in process.
Reminders to keep WASHING HANDS often and follow infection-control best practices:
- Please be extra cautious when caring for your clients.
- Wash your hands immediately upon arrival at a client’s home and frequently throughout the visit.
- Avoid touching your face or the client’s face unless you have just washed your hands or are wearing clean gloves.
- As always, use gloves when doing personal care or other activities that bring you in contact with any bodily fluids—and dispose of gloves immediately after use.
- Wipe down all frequently used surfaces in the home as well as personal items (yours and the client’s) with disinfectants or cleaning wipes. This includes your phone.
- Alert Honor immediately if you do not have access to gloves in the home.
- As always, call us if you see a change in the condition of your client.
Reimbursement for disinfectant, PPE, and flu shots. If you’re able to purchase any PPE, Honor will reimburse you for disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, and a flu shot if you haven’t already gotten one.
Here are additional resources related to PPE.
- Face mask use. The CDC does not currently recommend that the general public use face masks.
- HCAOA coordination. The Home Care Association of America (HCAOA) recently announced that it will soon be helping coordinate and ship PPE orders for HCAOA members. If you’re a member, stay tuned to their emails for more details.
- Stay current. Updates and recommended protocols can change swiftly. Be sure to check the CDC, FDA, and your local health department site daily for notifications.
- Free PPE training. Relias offers free PPE training courses (many in Spanish) to help healthcare professionals and individuals stay up-to-date on pandemic preparedness and monitoring the emergence and spread of COVID-19.
We’re doing everything within our power to support the safety of our clients, their families, and our caregivers. We know you are too, which is why we’re sharing information and resources for home care agencies during this difficult time. We hope this is helpful to your agency and will continue to provide updates and cover topics that are especially relevant to our industry. Take good care.
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