Few locations need to follow strict infection control procedures as much as aged care facilities. Elderly people are highly susceptible to various illnesses and diseases that can thrive in aged care homes when cleaning and disinfection procedures aren’t followed.
Elderly 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, then shrinks slowly and becomes replaced by fat. A reduction in T cell diversity makes elderly people more susceptible to infections, autoimmune diseases and cancer.
Most Common Infections that Spread in Aged Care Homes
Deadly outbreaks of influenza, pneumonia, COVID-19, gastroenteritis and hospital-acquired infections are common around the world. Even the most well-resourced, wealthy aged care homes are susceptible to an outbreak of disease. Infections are fast spreading, and one slip in infection control procedures can make it difficult to stop from escalating. This is why staff should act fast after the first case to reduce the chance of it spreading to other residents. In Australia, aged care homes are required to report flu or gastro outbreak to their state or territory health department as a control measure.
How Do You Prevent the Spread of an Infection in an Aged Care Home?
Unfortunately, staff and visitors bring infections into aged care homes unintentionally. This is why in most Australian aged care homes it is compulsory to have had injections for the flu and COVID-19 to visit a resident. However, it’s not enough. Strict infection control procedures are needed in aged care to stop the spread. Staff must be aware of the risks and stay on top of the safety protocols. Something as simple as carers not washing their hands between touching residents can be enough to pass an infection on. Moreover, if cleaning staff don’t follow an infection control procedure, illness can easily spread.
Infection Control Procedures in Aged Care
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 are particularly important. Door handles, handrails, light switches and toilet flush buttons can be a source of viruses and bacteria that infect multiple people very quickly.
For vulnerable residents, even a mild cold can highly impact their quality of life. A more severe illness such as the flu or COVID-19 can cause hospitalisation and possibly death among residents. Once one or two residents or workers are infected, the outbreak can grow quickly within days, which leads to 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 severely ill residents who may move back and forth between the hospital and their residence. Due to their poor health, they are the ones at greater risk of hospital-acquired infections (HAI) or nosocomial infections. These infections are those that can occur from medical treatment within a healthcare environment and are caused by microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses. Some of these infections are resistant to certain antibiotics and therefore are harder to treat. A patient may not show symptoms of a hospital-acquired infection until returning to the facility, and then 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 disinfection. The following tips can help to ensure that aged care facilities are equipped if presented with the threat of an outbreak:
#1 Hand Hygiene
Germs and bacteria spread most easily on our hands. Before entering a patient’s room, a cleaner should sanitise their hands. Later, one should sanitise their 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 of the areas to clean helps ensure the cleaning routine is followed at high standards.
#3 Use a Hospital Grade Disinfectant
Not all disinfectants are equal, which is why it is essential to choose the right one. A high quality, hospital grade disinfectant is more effective in killing 99.999% 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. Given this process can be time consuming, it might lead to being avoided, but a disinfectant isn’t effective if the surface isn’t thoroughly cleaned and dried before application. 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
Most 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 germs around the facility instead of removing them.
#5 Disinfecting All Surfaces
An aged care facility has to disinfect surfaces to high standards that many other institutions often overlook. Walls and floors are surfaces that may be left aside, but are commonly contaminated by spills and accidents. When walking through corridors, residents often use the walls for support and reassurance, making them high touch surfaces. To comply with health and safety measures, walls should be cleaned regularly, at least to head height.
Besides these surfaces, shared items, like crockery and cutlery, should be washed in a dishwasher at high temperatures, and tables wiped down thoroughly after each meal to avoid crossing bacteria and contamination.
High Touch Objects in Aged Care Facilities
The following should be cleaned effectively to reduce the chance of an outbreak:
- Chairs and tables in dining room
- Door handles
- Crockery and cutlery
- Staff member’s hands
#6 More Regular Cleaning During Illness
When a patient or staff member catches an infectious disease, cleaning protocols should be increased. Going back to any chairs they may have used in common areas, for example, can prevent another patient from getting 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.
Cleaning of Personal Items
The following items should be cleaned or disinfected to reduce the chance of a prolonged illness:
- Hairbrush and comb
#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 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.