What Type of Mask or Respirator Should Caregivers Wear to Protect a Loved One?
By Leigh Ann Steele
According to the 2020 Caregiving in the USA report conducted by The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP, there are approximately 53 million family caregivers in the United States. As the 65 and over population is expected to increase by 25% over the next 10 years according to the latest U.S. Census, the need for caregivers will continue to grow.
What is a family caregiver?
Family caregivers provide care to family members or friends who consistently need ongoing assistance with daily or routine tasks. Care recipients range from children to older adults, and typically live with a chronic illness or disabling condition. These may include Alzheimer’s or Dementia, Cancer, Stroke, Diabetes, Asthma, and Autoimmune Diseases. Family caregivers are usually informally arranged and unpaid since they are family or friends helping a person in need. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/aging/caregiving/index.htm, accessed 4/12/2023)
What is the role of a family caregiver?
Caregivers help with a wide range of tasks, including shopping, food preparation, housekeeping, transportation, feeding, dressing, grooming, bathing, and taking medication. They may also help with coordinating healthcare or managing finances. Some provide more complex care, such as medical and nursing tasks.
Protection for caregivers and patients
Caregivers are usually in close contact with those they help, and they often need to protect the health of a vulnerable or sick person. In these cases, there are several preventative measures that caretakers can take to help mitigate the risk of viruses and bacteria. These include:
- Frequently wash hands with soap and hot water
- Stay up to date on vaccinations
- Improve ventilation by opening windows, changing HVAC filters, using portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) cleaners, and using fans to improve air flow
- If you are sick, stay home and plan for a backup caregiver
- Avoid contact with people that are ill or who have been exposed to illness
- Wear a mask or an N95 respirator
While cloth masks provide some protection, N95 Respirators protect you by providing a tight seal to your face and filtering out 95% of air born particles. They also block droplets and particles you breathe, cough, or sneeze out so you don’t spread them to others around you. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “When worn consistently and properly, they [N95 respirators] provide the highest level of protection from particles, including the virus that causes COVID-19. Additionally, they contain your respiratory droplets and particles, so you do not expose others.”
When wearing a mask or N95 respirator, choosing one that fits you correctly as you move and talk is most important. It should fit closely to your face over your mouth and nose, provide a good seal, and feel comfortable. (CDC, accessed 4/12/2023, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html)
When to use an N95 respirator
Imagine the following scenario:
A 49-year-old man is the main caretaker for his elderly mother, who recently started cancer treatments. Since he lives with his mother, he wants to maintain an environment that reduces the likelihood of his mother contracting an illness that might worsen her condition. One of the ways that he can mitigate this risk is by following a sterile protocol (washing hands, etc.) and wearing an envo® N95 respirator when he is in close contact with his mother or others who may be sick. By securely putting on an N95 respirator, he can help protect his mother and have peace of mind as he tends to her needs.
If you are caring for a loved one that is considered a high-risk individual for contracting infections or viruses, you should consider wearing an envo® respirator. All Envo® respirators and filters are NIOSH-approved and protect against airborne particles. Comfortable enough to provide all-day protection, envo® respirators offer a patented AIRgel® seal that will keep you and your loved ones safe.