For LTC homes, protecting residents and staff from infectious diseases is a top priority over winter.
Residents are especially susceptible to seasonal influenza (flu), Covid-19 and stomach infections (such as norovirus), causing outbreaks and complications in the older population.
Infection prevention in long-term care homes involves creating strategies and protocols to minimize the risk and spread of infections among residents, staff, and visitors, ensuring a safer and healthier living environment.
This post will show you the steps to take to prevent infections and protect your care home from winter diseases.
1. Prepare supplies, residents and staff
Now is the time to make sure your care home has an adequate stock of PPE (surgical masks, disposable gloves), as well as cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer.
Procedures for infection control, linen management and clinical waste disposal should be intact and well-known by all staff.
Make sure vaccinations are up to date for residents and staff, especially for those over the age of 65. These include seasonal flu, Covid-19, pneumococcal disease and shingles.
2. Infection prevention through personal hygiene
Everyone working in a LTC home will be well versed in personal hygiene: washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, wearing disposable gloves when making contact with a resident’s bodily fluids, and coughing and sneezing into your sleeve.
To increase effectiveness, staff should have bare arms below the elbow, not wear jewelry on shift and keep their fingernails short and unpainted.
Throughout the winter season, it’s important to remind residents to wash their hands regularly. For those who can’t remember or who need help to do so, staff can make a note in their charts to help them throughout the day.
To reduce the spread of respiratory diseases, staff should wear a mask and face shield when caring for a resident who has symptoms.
Make sure staff know what the guidelines are, and how to follow them: write them up and put them on your intranet, remind people in staff meetings, put posters up and offer training to everyone who needs it.
3. Infection prevention through facility hygiene
As well as providing hygiene and cleaning supplies and enforcing personal hygiene, LTC homes can improve their indoor air quality to reduce the spread of airborne viruses and respiratory diseases.
Simple things you can do with existing equipment:
- Turn on fans to a low setting to circulate air
- Turn on kitchen and restroom vents to move contaminated air outside
- Use window and exhaust fans to direct airflow out of the room
- Assess and repair windows to increase air flow (when temperatures allow them to be open)
Portable air cleaners are a good option to purchase for high-traffic areas like dining rooms, as well as to have on hand for resident rooms when those residents have a respiratory infection or are immunocompromised.
For care homes that have an HVAC system, book an inspection to make sure the system is operating properly. Along with making any necessary repairs, replace air filters to the highest filtration level, and switch the system from “auto” to “on” so that air is continually circulating.
4. Managing visitors
It’s wonderful when family and friends visit their loved one who is living in a LTC home. When visitors arrive, though, they should be reminded of personal hygiene policies and encouraged to return another time if they themselves are feeling ill.
If the visitor is coming for compassionate reasons, but is showing cold or flu symptoms, extra precautions should be taken like offering them a mask, asking them to perform hand hygiene upon entering the building and throughout the visit, and going directly to and from the resident’s room.
Communicating clearly with visitors is key, emphasizing that everyone’s top priority is to keep residents and staff safe.
Even if you’ve prepared your home for increased sickness during the winter, last-minute staff absences often still occur.
When you’re in a bind, Florence can help you fill those shifts: start by sending a note to your current staff via SMS, instead of calling them one by one. They can simply accept the extra shift with a tap.
If your current staff aren’t available, you can send a note out to our network of 5,000+ vetted and highly qualified healthcare professionals.
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