But I Don’t Have a Fever!

In providing home care to seniors or the disabled, whether we are talking about family caregivers or professionals from Support For Home, the care is usually being provided to someone with an immune system that has been damaged in some way.  Maybe the person receiving care has a chronic condition, such as Diabetes or COPD or Congestive Heart Failure.  In general, though, we are talking about some level of fragility, in terms of health.

This factor does not get enough attention from caregivers.  It is something we always stress to our own Home Care Aides, but also to family members. 

Too often, the scenario runs something like this —

  • We hear from a caregiver that they are sick with a cold or flu, so either an additional respite schedule is needed or a backup Home Care Aide needs to be sent.  That is no problem;  in fact, it is great, as we want to protect the recipient of care.
  • A day or two later, the family caregiver or Home Care Aide calls us and says, “I am feeling better.  I do not have a fever, so I am not contagious.”
  • We say, “Not having a fever does not mean the infection has run its course that that you are no longer contagious!  To begin providing care, again, you need to be well, not just better.

The caregivers understand the need for assistance on the part of their loved one or client, but they underestimate the dangerous tradeoff of potential infection from a cold or flu versus the care they want to provide.

The possibility of contagion can be reduced, somewhat, by practicing Universal Precautions, but if a substitute caregiver can be found, that is the best, safest approach.  Learning about the period of contagion for conditions such as colds and flu is critical.

Best wishes — and safe caregiving.  Bert


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