After one of the hottest summers in recent memory and with the Met Office suggesting that warmer temperatures could last until October, preparing for an outbreak of winter illnesses may be the last thing on a care home manager’s mind. However, within the care home environment a winter outbreak of infection can pose a serious health risk, and with potentially a high proportion of elderly or infirm residents, who are likely to be more vulnerable to infection, it’s crucial that hygiene standards are not allowed to slip at any point.
Care home footfall can be high, with a range of visitors, healthcare professionals and other service providers onsite for varying periods of time, therefore keeping the environment clean and sanitised, can prove challenging for care home staff. So, what can be done to ensure you’re prepared for the eventual arrival of cool weather and winter illnesses?
Establish the process
Priority number one is to ensure you have a regular cleaning regime in place. In preparation for winter, you should also look to schedule a deep clean of key communal areas such as kitchens, washrooms, the resident’s lounge, and the visitor waiting room. This could not only help protect residents from infection via cross contamination, but may also reduce employee absenteeism.
Ideally, deep cleans should be carried out at least twice a year by a professional cleaning company. This should involve moving all furniture away from the walls to make sure no areas are being missed from the cleaning routine. Professional cleaners will have access to specialist multi-purpose biocidal cleaners, which can decontaminate surfaces by killing bacteria, fungi, spores, yeasts and viruses.
While routine and deep cleaning regimes can help to keep infection under control, outbreaks can still occur. By their very nature these need to be dealt with as quickly as possible to minimise the risk to residents. In such cases, all areas inhabited by the individuals involved in the illness outbreak should be thoroughly disinfected. Ultra Low Volume (ULV) disinfectant fogging, is one method often used in such circumstances, as it generates a mist of disinfectant to target pathogens, providing maximum area coverage and a fast-drying time.
How do I know what’s right for me?
With a wide range of different cleaning techniques and services available, it can be tricky to know where to begin. Care home managers may consider having a “Hygiene Healthcheck” consultation, which can analyse and show the contamination levels present across their premises in a heat map. This will help to determine an appropriate routine cleaning regime, with a clear focus on contamination prone areas and will also help identify the required frequency of deep cleaning for your facility.
Prevention is better than a cure
While winter may seem some time away, care home managers should take the time now to make sure they have an effective cleaning routine in place for as well as having a clear plan in place for dealing with any outbreaks of infectious illnesses.