One of the most powerful messages from the UK government during the coronavirus pandemic has been:
Hands. Face. Space.
Putting hand hygiene at the front of the fightback against COVID-19 saw sales of soap and hand sanitiser soar in 2020, with everyone being reminded to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds to ensure a thorough clean, or if there is no access to soap and water, to use hand sanitiser with at least a 70% alcohol content.
Stop! Did you wash your hands?
The pandemic handwashing drive isn’t the first time we’ve been reminded of the importance of hand hygiene. For years the NHS have provided pictorial point-by-point handwashing guides that you may have seen in hospitals, and punchy 5-point posters with the message:
Wet – Soap – Wash – Rinse – Dry.
Stop Germs Spreading.
The power is in your hands.
Most public toilets have some sort of direct handwashing message either on toilet or exit doors, with slogans like:
Now wash your hands.
Please wash your hands.
Stop! Did you wash your hands?
These are all designed to remind everyone of the need for good hand hygiene. So why do we need Global Handwashing Day, which we are promoting at ENA this year as an opportunity to renew our commitment to good hand hygiene?
Global Handwashing Day
Despite the emphasis on handwashing during the pandemic, many people are still struggling to adopt this important habit, whilst for some people worldwide, clean water and soap isn’t accessible.
The theme for this year’s Global Handwashing Day is “Our Future is at Hand – Let’s Move Forward Together,” with the organisers explaining that:
“This year’s theme calls on all of society to work together as we scale up hand hygiene and reminds us that we must work together toward universal access and practice of hand hygiene. No matter your role, you can celebrate Global Handwashing Day.”
Our handwashing culture at ENA
At ENA, we promote scrupulous handwashing amongst all of our staff, whether they are live-in carers or office staff. We know how important handwashing is to prevent transmission of a huge array of illnesses and infections which can lead to serious consequences for our clients – many of whom are vulnerable – and result in staff absences which can impact the care we can provide and how well we function as a care provider.
Our live-in carers have more direct contact with their clients than almost anyone else in the social care workforce. Good hand hygiene is vital as our live-in carers move from supporting a client with personal care to food preparation, going to the toilet to feeding pets, supporting gardening activities to administering medication. Add in that our live-in carers will be touching surfaces throughout their client’s home, as well as providing hands-on care, and it is clear that good handwashing is essential throughout the day and night.
Supporting our clients with handwashing
As well as maintaining their own scrupulous handwashing, our live-in carers also play an important role in supporting our clients to wash their hands. Many of our clients don’t find handwashing easy, perhaps because they don’t remember how to wash their hands themselves due to their dementia, or because a stroke or spinal injury has made handwashing difficult.
Some of our clients need adapted washing facilities, which their home may have if they have a long-term disability, but if they have just been discharged from hospital, for example after a stroke, their sink or basin may not be as accessible as it used to be. If accessing running water isn’t possible safely, we would bring a bowl of warm water and soap to a client to wash their hands. This is particularly helpful for a person who is bedbound.
Going out and about can also pose issues with handwashing if disabled toilets aren’t accessible, or in some instances where we find that soap has run out or water is cold. Our live-in carers always aim to carry hand sanitiser as a substitute until good washing facilities can be accessed.
Our key message on handwashing
If we were writing a slogan to remind everyone to wash their hands, it might be something along the lines of:
The choice of the word simple would be to emphasise that for most people with access to clean water and soap, this 20-second act is achievable, and for people who need support (like some of our clients), this support should always be readily available.
The choice of the word vital is because handwashing stops diseases spreading and saves lives.
So, to coin another slogan, this one from a famous sportswear manufacturer: Just do it.
Find out more about how ENA Care Group could support you or your family by calling 0800 4334 413 or emailing .