Sanitation in Nursing Facilities: What You Need to Know to Protect Residents
Sanitation is a big concern when it comes to elder care.
Surface sanitation and keeping the environment clean can go a long way toward patient health. Assisted living and nursing home communities provide long-term care for seniors with a variety of needs. Your nursing facility’s success comes from the lives you impact and care for, all while creating an atmosphere that is home to a community of people living out the late stages of their lives. Here are the guidelines you should follow to maintain proper cleanliness standards in your care facility.
Sanitation in Nursing Facilities—Life or Death
Running a senior care facility combines medical care with social, environmental, technical, and psychological solutions that all interact and impact the quality of life for those individuals who live there.
Sanitation—especially surfaces—is a critical factor that impacts every single one of the solutions and services your assisted living and nursing home community provides to its residents. Sanitation in nursing facilities, or lack thereof, is very literally a matter of life or death.
Assisted living and nursing home communities have very specific cleaning and sanitation demands that cannot be delayed, avoided or ignored. As with other medical facilities, schools, and child-care centers, nursing facilities regularly encounter difficult and potentially dangerous or even deadly infectious diseases.
Exposure to contagious germs and bacteria is more likely in nursing facilities due to the nature of the types of cleaning scenarios that occur. Your elderly residents may have weaker immune systems, struggle with long-term sicknesses, and in general, tend to have sanitation requirements that can provide some unique challenges.
Sanitation and hygiene are vital at all stages of elderly care. Surfaces can easily become soiled with any number of potentially infectious and hazardous contaminants—some obvious, and others less so. The speed, accuracy, and efficiency needed to clean up any and every type of spill, accident, or other scenarios unique to nursing facilities depends not only on you and your staff but also the cleaning services you may employ.
To ensure that sanitation in nursing facilities and other assisted living scenarios is a part of the every-day culture, care providers should have a comprehensive system established. Success in safe sanitation occurs when both building service contractors in charge of cleaning your nursing facilities and your staff adhere to these clearly defined standards and practices.
Here are the guidelines you should follow to maintain proper cleanliness standards in your care facility.
Hot Water Temperature Standards
It may seem obvious, but hot water is at the very core of cleanliness. In many surface sanitation scenarios, hot water is the base to which other cleaning solutions are added. Even without cleaning chemicals, hot water assists with killing many germs and bacteria—so long as it is at the correct temperature. Of course, hot water alone is definitely not enough. There are a wide variety of cleaning chemicals and solutions designed for the specific needs sanitation in nursing facilities requires.
Often, hot water is a part of the activation of various cleaning chemicals, acting as the dissolving agent (solvent) forming the cleaning solution used in the sanitation of surfaces. The solvent water must be at the correct temperature when a cleaning chemical is added, but during cleaning, it must also be discarded at regular intervals. Hot water doesn’t stay hot for long and the hot water temperature is just as important as the solution itself.
Maintaining the correct temperatures is critical to sanitation standards and the overall health and well being at your senior care facilities. Below are just a few examples of hot water temperature standards needed to maintain sanitation in nursing facilities:
- Health codes for laundry require a minimum of 140° F for sanitizing linens, killing germs, and bacteria left behind on bedding and towels.
- Keeping kitchen equipment and dishes sanitized and clean requires 140-180°F water.
- Hot water for bathing should never exceed 120°F.
Regular, professional service and maintenance of your on-site commercial water heating system will help to ensure that your assisted living and senior care nursing facilities always have hot water at the correct temperatures—health code compliant and otherwise.
Additionally, you may want to consider renting your commercial water heater for better protection of your nursing facility and residents. This option ensures that you have all of the equipment, maintenance, and replacement services needed to guarantee your nursing care facility is never without hot water.
Latex and Vinyl Gloves Best Practices
Latex and vinyl gloves are a modern standard to protect your residents, staff, and visitors from the spread of harmful germs and disease. According to recent data from APIC, “between 1.6 million and 3.8 million infections occur in long-term care facilities each year, resulting in about 388,000 deaths and costing between $673 million and $2 billion.”
This alarming revelation reveals and emphasizes how critical it is that protective, sterile gloves are always used. From food preparation to laundry, bathing, cleaning, and sterilization procedures, the correct—or incorrect—use of gloves is another matter of life or death importance.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember about using protective gloves is that they must be changed at regular intervals and frequently. Gloves must be changed after every single use, especially when it comes to scenarios that involve sanitation in nursing facilities. Gloves should be changed after each resident is attended to, whenever a surface needs to be cleaned and sterilized, and even during the course of laundry.
A good rule of thumb to help your staff to remember is to think of their various tasks in stages. For example, when working with food, gloves should be changed after handling certain products like raw meat. When taking care of laundry, gloves should be changed after handling all soiled laundry and before handling/transferring clean laundry. Further, to enhance sanitation, gloves should be used when folding clean laundry, to help ensure that germs aren’t transferred from a staff member over to a resident’s clean clothing.
Like gloves, face masks are another excellent way to help prevent the spread of germs and other infectious diseases. Face masks should always be provided and available to any and all people at your nursing facility. Visitors with a mild cold can become unintentional sources of sickness just by breathing the same air as your residents.
Face masks help to contain sneezing, sniffles, and overall, protect against the spread of infectious diseases. While face masks aren’t 100% effective, they still go a long way toward protecting the health of your residents and staff, as well as the environment inside of your nursing facility.
Maintaining Senior Care Facilities
In assisted living and nursing facilities, the opportunity for greater exposure to germs, bacteria, or infectious diseases is much higher than in many other environments where people live and work. Unfortunately, senior residents are more vulnerable to sickness and disease due to advanced age and medical complications. And because these residents often spend the majority of their time living in these nursing facilities, the likelihood of exposure is much higher.
While there are many health code standards and regulations surrounding sanitation in nursing facilities, it is important to remember that a well-trained staff is your first and best defense. A well-trained, educated, and prepared staff is vital to maintaining the health standards and quality of life for everyone living in and visiting your assisted living and nursing facilities.
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