If you live with a parent, spouse, or sibling who is ill, then you have likely hired a home health aide to come into your home while you work or take care of other responsibilities. This aide can administer medications with syringes, and they can clean wounds and change bandages. Also, soiled items can be taken care of by the professional. Your aide knows how to deal with sharp and soiled objects properly, but you probably do not. You may need to do some of the same things the aide does after they leave the home, so follow the tips below to make sure that sharp and dirty items are discarded properly.
Take Care of Sharp Materials
One of the most important things you can do in the home to ensure safety is to dispose of sharp items carefully. Sharp needles, lancets, syringes, razorblades, and any other sharp item that needs to be thrown away should not be placed in the garbage. These items place garbage collection professionals, housekeepers, home health aides, and family members at risk of needle sticks and injuries. This can cause the spread of blood-borne pathogens, bacteria, and other dangerous microorganisms.
Most medical facilities and waste generating establishments are required by state law to separate, contain, transport, and get rid of sharp materials in a safe fashion. You do not need to follow these rules in the home because you are not a professional, but you should be conscious of public health risks anyhow.
Create a Sharps Container
A sharps container is a good way to dispose of sharp items. You can purchase a sharps container at your local pharmacy, hospital, or medical supply store. Your home health aide may be able to supply you with one as well. If you do not want to purchase a sharps container, you can make one yourself. Locate a container in your home that is made out of thick plastic. A laundry detergent container or an empty bleach bottle is a good choice. Stay away from milk jugs, tupperware containers, or dish soap bottles. Thin, small, and open top containers can all cause spills and injuries.
Once you have the container, use a permanent marker to label it. Words like "danger" and "sharps inside" should be used. Place the container in the bathroom or kitchen and store sharp materials inside of it. Make sure the cap is always secured on top, and only fill the container about two-thirds full. This is best so the sharps can be removed easily. Once the container is full, take it to a sharps drop off location. Local pharmacies, hospitals, health departments, and police stations are likely to accept the containers. Hazardous waste collection sites and mail-back programs can be used as well.
Dispose of Soiled Materials
You may need to get rid of soiled bandages, clothing, sheets, and other materials while your home health aide is away. These types of items do not require special handling and disposal like sharp items, but they do require proper disposal. This helps to protect you and others from potential hepatitis and HIV transmission. Also, it keeps you from coming into contact with fecal matter that may contain harmful bacteria.
To take care of soiled items properly, wear a pair of exam or surgical gloves. Vinyl exam gloves are a good option, because they are inexpensive and soft, and they offer proper barrier protection. With the gloves on, pick up the soiled item and place it directly into a plastic garbage bag. Biohazard bags are not required for this, but you may want to purchase a heavy or extra heavy strength bag that will resist tears and punctures. Bags that are between 1.2 and 2.7 mils thick are a good choice.
Once the soiled material is placed in the bag, close the top with a tight knot. Place the bag directly into a garbage can for general garbage pick up.
If you have hired a home health aide, then this professional is probably used to dealing with sharp medical wastes and soiled items. You may need to deal with these same sorts of items after the aide leaves your home. You can do so in a safe manner by following the tips above.