Main image courtesy of Healthline.
Infections are a serious issue, not only during the yearly cold and flu season, but on a daily basis— especially in a long-term care facility. Medical professionals in nursing homes, hospitals, doctor’s offices, and outpatient facilities are constantly trying to reduce the risk of infections of elderly, ill, and of people who have recently undergone surgery. This is why they are always washing their hands, or using hand sanitizer. Unfortunately, infections can still occur in these environments, leading to illnesses and even death.
If you work in a long-term care facility, you can do more to help prevent the spread of infection! One of the best ways is to discuss ways to raise awareness about infection prevention, and how important it is in senior communities. If you want to learn more about how you can use strategies from Infection Control Week, keep reading because we’re going to discuss:
- Why infection prevention and hand hygiene are crucial in senior living communities
- How to create a culture of infection prevention with staff
- What Infection Control Week is
- Fun ways to help raise awareness about infection prevention during Infection Control Week
Mariposa Training has a variety of infection control courses, some of which are taught by world-renowned infection prevention researchers who have also created the guidelines used by the CDC and the WHO. At Mariposa Training, you’ll find courses offered on:
- Implications for Infection Control
- The Importance of Infection Control Measures to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19
- Improving Hand Hygiene in the Healthcare Setting
- And more!
Why Infection Prevention and Hand Hygiene is Crucial in Long-Term Care Facilities
It’s important to know how vital hand hygiene is
One of the easiest things to do in order to reduce the risk of infection is to properly wash your hands. Image courtesy of Very Well Health.
One of the best ways to prevent the spread of infection is through the simple act of washing your hands. We learned this very well during the Covid-19 pandemic, as washing your hands with soap and water can drastically cut the chance that you will infect yourself or others with that virus. The same is true for any infectious disease that can be easily spread in a long-term care facility. The CDC recommends that those working in the healthcare and caregiving professions wash their hands or use hand sanitizer:
- Before touching a patient to care for them
- After using medical equipment
- After touching a patient
- After contact with a contaminated site
- After eating
- After using the restroom
- When hands are visibly soiled
These requirements are put in place to help protect the resident, the staff, as well as the rest of the seniors living in the community. Infections are very easy to spread, and if you’re working in a long-term care community, you know that seniors are very vulnerable to infection. Many who are living in the care center have underlying conditions, have medical devices attached to them, or have weakened immune systems, which makes it even easier for them to get infected.
This is why it is crucial that staff who are interacting with seniors are trained on the importance of infection prevention, and specifically on how helpful hand hygiene is at preventing the spread of infections.
While it may seem like a simple task, infections continue to occur because staff are not washing or sanitizing their hands as often as the CDC calls for. So what’s the best way to educate and monitor staff on the prevention of infection? You’ll need to create a culture of infection prevention!
How to Create a Culture of Infection Prevention Among Staff
When your facility has a culture of infection prevention, you’re helping to reduce the chance of seniors developing serious illnesses
Encourage a culture of infection prevention by education staff, residents, and visitors about their role. Image courtesy of Signet Group.
The best way to ensure staff is aware of how important hand hygiene and infection prevention is, is to educate and train them to be a part of an infection prevention culture at your long-term care facility. Creating such a culture can be done, and it’s a great way to reduce the amount of infections that your senior living facility deals with. There are a few steps to creating this awareness, but once it exists, it’s easier to train new staff and continue to work on preventing infections.
- Establish and communicate policies that surround hand hygiene and infection prevention
- When adverse events or close calls happen, use them as a way to train and to learn so that the same mistakes are not repeated
- Give recognition for those staff members that report close calls or when something could have been done in a safer manner
- Create a way to measure safety performance, and evaluate it in order to find ways infection prevention can improve
- Incorporate improvement initiatives so that staff continue to be aware of infection prevention and how it benefits residents
Once infection prevention is a part of the daily culture of a long-term care facility, you can see how that can only benefit the vulnerable seniors living there. It’s important for the senior care facility staff and administration to create an infection prevention program that is constantly working to improve on infection control. The best way to ensure a culture of infection prevention is sustainable is to ensure staff:
Know the importance of infection prevention
As we mentioned earlier, it cannot be emphasized enough how important infection control is. This should be a part of staff training, as you work to build a culture of infection control that learns from its mistakes, and regularly evaluates ways in which it can do better. Daily implementation of infection control measures ensures the staff is aware of its importance and is contributing to making the long-term care facility safer.
Know when to use hand hygiene
One of the big reasons why infections seem to spread so quickly in senior living communities is that staff sometimes are not aware of when they should be using hand hygiene. The CDC’s list of times when hands should be washed or sanitized is long because there are so many windows in which there are opportunities for bacteria and viruses to spread. In the senior healthcare profession, staff are constantly required to touch not only residents that require assistance, but also the items in their general area, such as bed sheets, clothes, personal effects, and anything related to their ADLs.
How to properly cleanse hands
After Covid-19, we all have a much better idea of how hands are supposed to be washed in order to limit the spread of infections. In order to wash your hands correctly, follow these steps:
- Wet your hands with running water at a sink
- Use enough soap so that you can easily spread it all over your hands (both sides) and wrists
- Lather and mix the soap all over the surface of your hands, including your fingernails and fingertips
- Make sure to wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds (it helps to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice in your head to get to 20 seconds)
- Rinse your hands
- Dry off with a clean towel or let your hands air dry
You can also use hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol if you are unable to wash your hands. Simply use the hand sanitizer pump and spread the gel all over your hands and fingers as you would while washing your hands. There should be easily accessible hand sanitizer stations located throughout the long-term care facility so there is never a reason to go far in order to properly cleanse your hands, either when dealing with a resident or items that they come in contact with frequently (patient zone).
Monitor infection prevention success
Once staff know the importance of infection prevention, the times when they need to practice hand hygiene, and how to perform infection prevention, it’s important to also monitor the success of your prevention program. This is when it is helpful to have a culture of infection prevention, as staff will feel comfortable and encouraged to offer suggestions of what could be better, and what can be learned from close calls.
Although staff of senior care centers have a big responsibility to be aware of and enforce infection prevention, there are things that residents and visitors to long-term care communities can do as well.
Long term care residents can:
- Clean hands before eating and after using the restroom
- Not pick at wounds or peel off bandages
- Cover mouths when coughing or sneezing. Dispose of tissues after use.
- Not share personal items
- Remind caregivers about washing their hands and how it prevents the spread of infection
- Not touch food that is for someone else
Visitors and family members can also help decrease the spread of infection when they visit their loved ones in a long-term care community:
- Wash hands or use hand sanitizer before visiting
- Wear a mask if they are visiting a loved one that may be sick
What is Infection Control Week?
Learn a little more about the week dedicated to infection control
Infection Prevention Week is a great idea to bring this important concept to the forefront. Image courtesy of Brevis Corporation.
In order to raise even more awareness around the crucial job that healthcare workers do to prevent infection, in 1986 President Ronald Reagan instituted International Infection Prevention Week (IIPW). Designed to occur every year, this week was to highlight how life-saving infection prevention and hand hygiene can be. Although infection control is important in healthcare settings—as well as the community as a whole—it is very important to those who are caring for seniors in long-term care facilities. IIPW has a different theme each year, which highlights issues such as antibiotic resistance, vaccines, and how to break the chain of infection.
Infection Prevention Week is a great time to either start plans for creating a culture of infection prevention in your long-term care community, or to ramp up ways to ensure that staff, residents, and visitors to the senior center are all aware of their part to play. Next we’re going to discuss some fun ways to do just that.
Fun Ways Your Long-Term Care Facility Can Promote Infection Prevention
Consider using these ideas to raise awareness during your next Infection Prevention Week
Although daily infection prevention should be on everyone’s mind who works in a long-term care facility, having a whole week to raise awareness is a great way to make sure it’s at the forefront. And what better way to help staff, residents, and visitors know how they can stop infection than with some fun ideas!
There’s nothing quite like a meme to succinctly make a point. Plus most of the time they can really make you laugh! Why not pull together some ideas to make and post memes about how important infection control is throughout your senior care center? Memes are super easy to make (and there are already some great ones available like the one below) and can be hung up almost anywhere. Not only will you remind people to wash their hands, they may just get a good laugh too.
Image courtesy of Meme Creator.
Word Searches and Activity Pages
The Infection Prevention and You site has a bunch of word searches and activity pages focused around patient safety and infection prevention that are ready to go, you just need to print them out! Feel free to put them in the staff break room, or include them as a handout after an infection control training session.
Of course, infection control week is the perfect time to get staff up to date on training. Whether this is watching videos, having seminars, or just reviewing how to get better at infection prevention, training and education are key to ensuring the culture of infection prevention is successful.
Infection prevention is a serious issue, and when staff is properly trained, it can save lives in long-term care communities. Using International Infection Prevention Week to raise awareness (especially when done with fun training and games) is a great way to ensure everyone knows they have a part to play in decreasing the risk of infection.
For more training on infection control and prevention, consider some of the courses offered online at Mariposa Training.