The importance of infection prevention in care homes

Featured article - 20 February 2018
By Joanne Balmer, Senior Director of Care and Quality, Sunrise Senior Living

Head-shot of the author, Joanne Balmer, Senior Director of Care and Quality, Sunrise Senior Living

To maintain a healthy, clean environment in care homes, it is vital team members do all they can to prevent infection, and respond quickly and effectively when it does occur. There are key procedures teams should follow to ensure maximum protection for all residents, but particularly those living with cognitive impairment. A great explanation of these steps comes in the NICE quick guide.

Ensuring cleanliness for all residents

Firstly, team members should wash their hands before and after providing care to a resident, as well as after being exposed to body fluids, and wear protecting gloves for providing personal or intimate care. It is also important to correctly dispose of waste materials, use sharp objects safely, and wear protective equipment when appropriate.

While the team must drive these procedures, the wellbeing of people living and working in a care home will benefit greatly if residents, their friends, and family have been educated about infection prevention. For example, residents should know when to wash their hands, and when to use hand sanitiser or soap and water.

The care sector undoubtedly faces big challenges around the retention of employees, especially nurses, making it harder to maintain a trained team who understand how to protect infection. But this challenge can be overcome by communicating effectively at all times and making processes and procedures understandable in easy read formats so that the team clearly know what they need to do to maintain cleanliness and prevent infection.

Having this transparent guidance throughout a care home also means that team members can respond immediately when infections do occur.

Supporting residents living with cognitive impairment

Another key challenge is ensuring residents living with a cognitive impairment stay healthy. At Sunrise, we have special memory care neighbourhoods which, as part of their effort to promote hygiene, ensure all team members carry sanitiser to rub into residents’ hands, which they do as part of a comforting and soothing massage. This takes the pressure off residents to remember to wash their own hands. This product is highly effective at preventing infection spread, is kind to skin and contains zero alcohol therefore reducing risk.

In preventing infection, there are therefore both general procedures that care homes can follow, and some more tailored approaches staff can take to support residents living with a cognitive impairment. Combined together, these steps will foster clean, healthy, and hygienic care homes.

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