Caring for the Elderly: Health and Safety Challenges for the Workers

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Healthcare industry is one of the fastest growing sectors, but like every profession out there, it has its fair share of risks and challenges. And these become more complex when you care for the elderly, whether you do it at their home or at a senior care facility.

As a healthcare worker, you are exposed to so many hazards such as illnesses and injuries. Latex allergy, blood borne pathogens, back injuries and needlestick injuries are all too common. And then there are risks related to radioactive material, x-rays, waste gases, workplace violence, and even stress. How can you deal with all these challenges? We’ll present the main ones here, and then share some guidelines for your safety.

Blood Borne Pathogens

When you care for the elderly, you may be in contact with their fluids, which exposes you to blood borne pathogens. This means that you may suffer from viral or bacterial infections. The risk is obviously greater if contact is frequent.

Always wear gloves, goggles, gowns and other protective equipment to prevent contamination. Make sure you have complete knowledge of the process which you are performing so that you can follow all precautions and guidelines.

Other than this, you should always make sure that your hands are clean and bacteria free by using sanitisers and other products. Disinfect the patient’s skin before surgical or injective processes with antiseptics. When done, clean and decontaminate the used inurnments. Also make sure that you’re vaccinated for Hepatitis, and other similar diseases.


Needles, scalpels and other similar objects are contaminated, can infect you and even injure you. Prevent health hazards against all these items by following a proper disposal or sterilisation process. Dispose syringes right after you have used them, and make sure you have capped all needles. Wear your gloves, and be extremely careful when you handle sharp objects.

You can also suffer from musculoskeletal injuries if your duties involve lifting elderly patients, and transferring them between their wheelchair and bed. You can protect your bones, nerves, cartilage, tendons or muscles from being damaged by using assistive devices like slings, slip sheets, electronic hoists and other similar products. These devices are easily available online at various websites such as

Also make sure that you use the correct body mechanics when performing various tasks. As an example, if you are lifting a patient, you should bend your knees slightly and keep your feet apart.

Chemical Hazards

The healthcare industry is filled with chemicals that can cause diseases as serious as cancer, asthma, and developmental disorders. Some of the most common chemicals are phthalates, triclosan, and mercury. Chemotherapeutic agents are also harmful, and must be handled with care.

Acquire training on handling hazardous substances, and have access to safety information for chemicals, which you use as part of your daily job.

While the challenges may be serious, you can minimise them and not suffer from any damage if you follow safety and health guidelines.

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