Few locations need to follow strict cleaning and disinfecting protocols as much as aged care facilities. Elderly people are highly susceptible to a range of illnesses and diseases that can be destroyed with a good cleaning regime.
The pandemic has taught many Australians how at risk our elderly population is to bacteria and viruses. Their environment must be cleaned effectively to stop deadly outbreaks of a range of viruses and respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, influenza, pneumonia, tuberculosis and hospital acquired infections.
Why Are the Elderly More Susceptible to Disease?
Eldlerly people are more likely to be infected and to suffer dire consequences of a virus than younger adults.
An older person’s immune system isn’t as effective. The thymus produces all your T cells by the time you reach puberty and then slowly shrinks and becomes replaced by fat. A reduction in T cell diversity makes elderly people more susceptible to infections, autoimmune disease and cancer.
The Importance of Disinfecting Aged Care Facilities
One of the most effective ways of keeping aged care residents and workers healthy is to ensure they have a safe, hygienically clean and healthy environment.
Cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces is particularly important. Door handles, handrails, light switches and toilet flush buttons can be a source of viruses and bacteria that infect multiple people in a short time period.
For vulnerable residents, even the common cold can impact their quality of life. A more serious illness such as the flu or COVID-19 can cause hospitalisation and death amongst residents. Once one or two residents or workers are infected, the outbreak can grow quickly and within days, meaning the facility can experience a major outbreak that is difficult to contain. COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care facilities early in the pandemic showed how fast and devastating an outbreak can be for elderly residents.
Aged care facilities house seriously ill residents who may move back and forth between hospital and their residence. Due to their poor health, they are the most at risk of hospital acquired infections (HAI) or nosocomial infections. These infections are those that can occur from medical treatment within a health care environment and are caused by microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses. Some of these infections are resistant to certain antibiotics and are therefore difficult to treat. A patient may not show symptoms of a hospital acquired infection until they have returned to the facility and it can quickly spread to other residents.
7 Tips for Cleaning and Disinfecting Aged Care Facilities
It is extremely important for aged care facilities to have clear guidelines, instructions and the right products when it comes to cleaning and disinfecting. The following tips can help to ensure that aged facilities can keep everything under control if presented with the threat of any outbreaks:
#1 Hand Hygiene
Germs and bacteria spread most readily on our hands. Before entering a patient’s room, a cleaner should sanitise their hands. Sanitise hands again between touching dirty linen and any surfaces. The hands should be sanitised again after cleaning one area and before moving on to another.
#2 Use a Cleaning Checklist
It’s easy for a cleaner to be distracted during the process and forget to complete tasks. Forgetting to clean a high touch surface can be all it takes for an outbreak to occur. A checklist helps ensure that all staff are completing the required cleaning routine.
#3 Use a Hospital Grade Disinfectant
Not all disinfectants are equal, which is why it’s so important to choose the right one. A high quality, hospital grade disinfectant is more effective at killing 99.9% of viruses and bacteria, including the COVID-19 virus.
The mistake many facilities make is not removing dirt and grime from a surface before attempting to disinfect it. A disinfectant isn’t effective if the surface isn’t thoroughly cleaned and dried before application. This method is time consuming, so it’s common for facilities to cut corners. Using a 2-in-1 cleaner and disinfectant like Chlor-Clean cuts down cleaning time and provides peace of mind that it will be effective.
#4 Proper Training of Staff
Cleaners are underpaid and often undervalued, yet in an aged care facility, their work can save lives. Ensuring staff are trained and retrained in proper cleaning techniques ensures consistent high quality work.
When considering an aged care facility for their elderly parents, families should ask if staff have completed adequate training in effective cleaning methods. Poor cleaning techniques can do more harm than good because it has the potential to move the germs around the facility rather than removing them.
#5 Disinfecting All Surfaces
An aged care facility has to disinfect surfaces to a standard that few other buildings need to worry about. It’s common for walls and floors to be contaminated by spills and accidents. Residents often use the walls for support and reassurance when walking through corridors, making them high touch, high risk surfaces. Therefore, walls should be cleaned regularly to at least head height to keep them safe.
Shared items like crockery and cutlery should be washed in a dishwasher at high temperatures and tables wiped down thoroughly after each meal to ensure mealtimes are as safe as possible.
#6 More Regular Cleaning During Illness
It’s important that cleaning protocols be increased when a patient or staff member has fallen ill to an infectious disease. Paying attention to any chairs they may have used in common areas, for example, can save another patient from falling ill. A patient’s linen may need to be changed more frequently and dirty linen carefully bagged before removing it from their room to ensure there is no cross-contamination. The lifespan of an illness may be shortened by increased cleaning of a room and replacing personal items such as toothbrushes.
#7 Beware of Drain Biofilm
Some deadly infections in hospitals and aged care homes have been found to come from the biofilm in sink and shower drains. Flushing drains regularly can reduce the number of bacteria and risks, particularly in drains of sick residents. However, cleaning drains with disinfectants is a short-term measure and it’s possible for an infection to move from room to room via the plumbing. Consider retrofitting drains with Green Drain, which allows water and debris to pass while preventing pathogens from entering up through the drain and into a room.
For more information about the hospital grade Chlor-Clean or Green Drain, call us on 1300 29 32 32 or contact us online.