As a health care professional, you already know how important it is to establish healthy habits to avoid getting sick. But when your job requires you to be in and out of homes caring for clients, that can be easier said than done—especially during cold and flu season. Taking care of yourself is the first step to helping others, so while your focus may be (rightfully!) on the well-being of your clients, it is important to remember to take steps to keep yourself healthy, too.
Remember to Get a Flu Shot
Just as you would encourage your clients (over the age of six months) to do, it is crucial that you vaccinate against the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specifically recommend that all U.S. health care workers get vaccinated annually against influenza, including those not directly involved in patient care but potentially exposed to infectious agents.
To find a vaccine location near you, visit https://vaccinefinder.org.
Remember to Exercise Proper Hygiene
As you make your way from home to home, be sure to wash your hands with hot water and antibacterial soap upon entering, after coming into contact with bodily fluids or potential germs, and before you leave—even if you wear gloves. In addition to your medical equipment, it is good practice to disinfect surfaces and other high-traffic areas as well as frequently used objects in the home. Avoid touching your face, as your eyes and nose grant germs easy access to your body; wearing a mask, especially if your client is contagious, offers an added level of protection. Finally, keep a bottle of hand sanitizer nearby for those moments when you are unable to immediately wash your hands.
Remember to Catch Enough Z’s
In an effort to balance work and life, sleep is often put on the back burner. However, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services states that adults need seven to eight hours of quality sleep on a regular schedule each night. Getting proper sleep not only gives your body a much-needed break, but it also protects your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.
Remember to Move
Did you know that on average, nurses walk four to five miles during a 12-hour shift? While home care may not always require the same level of physical activity as a hospital, you are still on your feet a lot. There are many benefits of consistent exercise and giving your immune system a boost is no exception. According to the American Council on Exercise, research has established a link between moderate, regular exercise and a strong immune system, so continue to get your steps in!
Remember to eat well
After a long day of taking care of clients, putting together a healthy meal for yourself can feel like an unnecessary chore. However, good nutrition—which includes a diet full of foods such as fruits, vegetables, and lean protein—is essential, as it can help you to reach and maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of chronic diseases (like heart disease and cancer), and promote your overall well-being. By meal prepping and keeping healthy snacks on hand, you can ensure that you are getting the right nutrition even on your busiest days.
When your life’s work revolves around caring for others, it can be easy to forget about the most important person you need to keep healthy: you! Remember, in order to be there for your clients, you must first take care of yourself. And while none of these tips can guarantee you will not get sick, following them is sure to keep you healthier (and happier)!