Infection Control in Care Homes
Donna Mitchell, Sector Marketing Manager, Healthcare, Diversey, UK & Ireland, provides guidance to care home operators on keeping residents, families and staff safe inside communal areas as many countries begin to lift restrictions on visits.
Care homes want to ensure the continued safety of their residents, visitors, and staff as they reopen for visits following lockdown restrictions. Effective personal and environmental hygiene – especially hand and surface disinfection – should be central to their infection prevention strategies.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 normally spreads from person to person by direct contact, touching contaminated surfaces, and through breathing in airborne droplets produced when infected people cough, sneeze, or breathe out. Stopping any of these pathways helps to break the chain of infection. This is why good hygiene, social distancing, and wearing masks have all been so important.
Good practice can start before visitors arrive. Make information about infection prevention measures prominent on the care home’s website. A booking system provides an excellent opportunity to explain disinfection processes. Include information about these measures on the phone or send a text or email when confirming a booking.
Hand Hygiene: Keeping our hands clean is the simplest and best way to help prevent the spread of the virus. Everyone in the care home should be encouraged to clean or disinfect their hands as often as possible. This can include when moving from one part of the building to the next, when interacting with different people, and after touching any surface that could have been touched by someone else. Put up plenty of signs to remind people: your hygiene supplier should have some you can use.
Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds will work in any location with a sink. Additional precautions are advisable during the pandemic. This will mean placing hand-rub dispensers at convenient points around the care home. Dispensers located at the main entrance allow visitors to disinfect their hands when they arrive. Dispensers should also be located inside and by the doors of communal areas. The aim is to make it easy for anyone to disinfect their hands whenever they wish.
Wall-mounted dispensers offer many long-term benefits (and are less likely to go missing). In the short term, however, it may be more convenient to use portable bottles with built-in dispensers. Some suppliers also offer smaller bottles for personal use.
Make sure the product is effective: suppliers should be able to show evidence their products meet relevant EN-numbered disinfection standards for the particular viruses or other pathogens of concern. Products meeting EN14476 against Viccinia Virus, for example, should be effective against the virus that causes Covid-19. Look for products that are pleasant and suitable for frequent application because this will encourage more use.
Surface Disinfection: The other key aspect to infection prevention is surface disinfection. All hard surfaces should be disinfected frequently to remove viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens.
During the pandemic it is a sensible precaution to clean surfaces even more regularly than traditional schedules. This might mean many times a day. Pay particular attention to surfaces or objects that are regularly touched or used by more than one person. This will include light switches and door handles and equipment such as wheelchairs, mobility scooters, and stair lifts.
Select products that meet relevant EN disinfection standards (such as EN14476) and can be used often without damaging the surfaces being treated. Some formulations will disinfect multiple pathogens and can be used on a wide range of surfaces. Look for products that work quickly and can be used when residents, visitors and staff are present. This will help make it simpler and safer to disinfect surfaces frequently during the day.
Above all, though, make sure to follow government guidelines and recommendations for best infection prevention control practices in your country.