COVID-19 has shown the world how dangerous infections can be and how rapidly they can be transmitted. Controlling the transmission of infection is a vital public health measure, but infection control in aged care facilities is even more critical. Residents in aged care facilities may be more susceptible to infections, due to compromised immune systems because of chronic illnesses and disease, as well as age.
We know that COVID-19 is particularly dangerous for the elderly, which is why aged care facilities have come into focus when it comes to preventing and controlling the spread of infectious agents.
We’ve created this guide to illustrate how infections are spread. And how preventative cleaning and hygiene practices can reduce the risk of infections spreading.
The Chain of Infection
Infections rely on three elements to spread:
- A source (person, food, water, etc.)
- A mode of transmission (contact, air, droplets)
- A host (a susceptible person)
The mode of transmission varies depending on the infectious agent; many can be transmitted via various methods. For example, COVID-19 could be spread via touching an infected source or by breathing in minute airborne droplets.
Breaking The Chain
Preventing infections is all about breaking the chain. Removing the source, mode or host will mean the infection cannot easily be spread.
The graphic below demonstrates how to break an infection chain.
Cleaning Practices To Avoid Infections
Cleaning practices will depend on the surfaces and the risk of contamination. Most surfaces can be cleaned with warm water and a good quality detergent, but always remember to check manufacturer instructions. Disinfecting a surface is a two-step process:
- Clean the surface first to remove any visible signs of soil,
- Then apply a disinfectant and allow the disinfectant sufficient dwell time to work
Remember, NEVER mix disinfectants with other chemicals. Mixing a disinfectant with anything else will completely change its properties, and it will no longer be effective. Disinfectants that come in a concentrated form must be diluted in precisely the ratio indicated on the label. Any more or less water added may mean disinfectant disaster. If you are in an area with hard water, check concentrated disinfectant labels for hard water tolerance, to be sure they will still be effective when diluted.
Use these tips to respond to spills and protect against infections.
Attend To Potential Infection Control Breaches As Soon As Possible
Aged care facilities should partner with cleaning companies that have technology which allows nurses, carers and other staff to immediately alert service teams of any potential infection control risks or occurrences of infection control breaches.
BIC Services has developed the Interactive Customer Experience Platform (ICXP) to address this need.
BIC Service teams are given either specially programmed smartphones or wearables devices that allow facility staff using tablets to send service requests and alerts directly to our teams. ICXP can also be programmed to send automatic requests based on predetermined conditions such as usage frequency, the volume of foot traffic or even events that are triggered by the government COVID-Safe app.
This ensures service teams are ready to attend to critical events and gives nurses and other carers the peace of mind in knowing that they are in good hands.
The ICXP system can also create heatmaps of service team movements as they go about their daily tasks. These heatmaps show:
- The areas of the facility that have been serviced
- The frequency of daily visits
- How long the service team remained in the area
- When an area was last cleaned
Use Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
The correct use of PPE, the frequency of changing PPE after tasks have been performed, and its correct disposal are essential in protecting service team members, as well as the health of the nurses, carers, residents and visitors.
Gloves, masks and other PPE stop cleaning technicians from becoming hosts, sources of or potential transmitters of infections, but only if they are changed as needed.
Use Proper Disposal Methods
Anything that has come into contact with a potential infection control event needs to be discarded correctly. Any biological waste needs to be deposited in appropriate containers, along with all PPE and cleaning materials.
Use Post-Clean Hygiene
Attending technicians need to perform thorough hand hygiene throughout the day. For example, when arriving at work, before donning PPE, after removing PPE, when changing PPE, when moving from room to room, when changing tasks, etc.
The importance of thorough and frequent hand hygiene cannot be overstated. Studies have shown that time is essential when washing hands. A quick wash does not work, so use this WHO resource to memorise and follow the proper hand hygiene technique.
Artificial nails should never be worn in a health or aged care facility, as they have been identified as a serious source for cross-contamination.
Have Documented Cleaning and Verification Procedures
Having cleaning procedures clearly documented, with a step by step approach and methods for ensuring service teams strictly follow the required cleaning process is the best way to prevent infection outbreaks.
However, the ability to verify an area has been thoroughly cleaned is essential to minimise the risk of infection transmission. At BIC, we achieve this through our ICXP system combined with our quality assurance inspection program using the Diversey VeriClean System and LuciPac A3 Infection Control Swabs.
If the facility is getting a regular and thorough clean which is then verified afterwards, BIC Service teams can give our clients greater peace of mind. Verification of cleaning technology also makes it easier to respond to unplanned events, like illness outbreaks.
If you would like assistance on making your aged care facility safer, get in touch with one of our friendly team members and learn about our best-in-class services.