At some time in nearly every family, there is a case of illness or injury. Much of the worry and confusion that often result can be reduced if a member of the family has the knowledge and skill required to give simple home-nursing care to the sick and injured. More and more doctors are recommending home care, when conditions are favorable, rather than hospital care for many patients. Then, too, hospitals are often overcrowded and patients are sent to their homes as soon as the acute stage of their illness is over. It makes good sense, therefore, to have at least one person in every home trained in home nursing.
Of course, he should be able to recognize and make use of the fundamentals of nursing as they apply to safety, the effectiveness of treatment, the economy of time, effort and material and neatness and cleanliness of patient and surroundings. Civil-defense authorities urge people to learn how to give first aid in order to provide nursing care for themselves and, if necessary, for others in shelters.
How to Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Illness?
The home nurse should be able to recognize the symptoms and signs of illness so that the doctor can be told what to expect when he is called. There are certain symptoms that can be noted readily, such as the color of the skin, rash, if any, cough, discharge from the eyes, nose or ears, vomiting, diarrhea, listlessness, unusual irritability or bleeding. Except in the case of an infant, the patient can tell about other symptoms, such as pain, nausea, dizziness, spots before the eyes or sore throat. When a sick person feels unusually warm, fever – a rise in temperature – is suspected and can be measured accurately by taking the body temperature with a clinical thermometer. The severity of a symptom is not always a true guide because it is possible for a mild symptom to be the forerunner of a serious illness that might be communicable or infectious. Hence no symptoms should be ignored, no matter how trivial they may seem to be the home nurse.
Guarding the Patient and His Family Against Infection
Because disease-producing germs may be present in the mucous membranes of the nose and throat or in the intestinal tract of healthy people, we should all consider ourselves possible carriers of germs. Sick people are especially in need of protecting against further illness since their powers of resistance to certain germs may have been weakened. It is important, too, to protect the members of the patient’s family.
Since the hands are the greatest single offender in the spread of infection, they must be kept clean when nursing the sick. Hands should be washed not only when they become soiled, but also before and after handling food, after going to the toilet and before and after giving direct care to a patient.
In instances where water is at a premium, as in a disaster, knowing how to handle both clean and soiled articles and materials may have to take the place of hand washing.
The careless handling of body waste and materials used in the care of the patient can result in particularly serious infection. All body discharges should be disposed of in the toilet immediately. Materials such as soiled tissues, cotton pledgets (compresses) and throat swabs should be placed carefully in a paper bag and then taken from the room and disposed of by burning, if possible. Materials that will be used again should be placed in a paper bag and carefully handled until laundered to prevent the spread of infection. If paper bags are not available, a substitute bag can be fashioned readily from newspapers.