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How to have the upper hand against infection

By Christine Claighen, Head of Regulatory and Science at Gojo

While hygiene and sanitation are important in all aspects of life, when it comes to aged care they are of the utmost importance and should always be a top priority for providers. Given the elderly have a weakened immune system, not only are they more likely to contract infections, but the consequences of coming down with one can be severe.

Hand contact is one of the leading ways infections can be contracted and therefore one of the most important things to consider when looking at overall sanitation procedures. There are many ways you can approach this vital element of facility management to optimise operational performance and improve the quality of life of aged care residents.

The first is ensuring you are using the correct products. Understanding the correct sanitisers to use, and how to use them, is integral to preventing infection and maximising resident comfort. As we age our skin becomes much thinner and more sensitive, particularly on our hands, which come into contact with so many different surfaces, lotions and chemicals over the years. As such, it’s integral that the sanitisers used in aged care facilities cater specifically to senior skin.

The right sanitiser will prevent skin dermatitis, itching and dryness, common side effects suffered by those with sensitive and ageing skin. Look for sanitisers that are fragrance, alcohol and dye free, as this reduces potential irritants and helps skin retain its moisture.

Once you have the right products, ensuring they’re well-placed is key. At a minimum, there should be pumps throughout communal areas, outside resident rooms, bathrooms, in medical areas and at the entry and exit points of the facility. Having sanitisers on raised platforms makes them more visible, serving as a visual reminder to use them and preventing them from being misplaced. Ease of use is also important, so ensure your sanitisers can be easily dispensed with a pump or auto-dispenser.

The third step to improving sanitation is driving positive behaviour in visitors, residents and staff. Signage throughout your facility should prompt visitors to use the sanitiser dispensers before and after coming into contact with residents. This can also be communicated verbally by facility staff when they interact with guests.

Facility staff are integral to maintaining optimum sanitation levels as they regularly bring the outside world in and have the most interaction with residents. However, as staff are often busy, they can forget to follow proper procedure. For example, a staff member in a rush might quickly squirt one or two pumps of sanitiser, without realising a minimum of three pumps must be used to effectively kill the bacteria that causes infections. Highlighting the importance of sanitation to your team and hosting regular workshops or training will go a long way in boosting sanitation levels.

Using the above steps will effectively minimise or help prevent the spread of infection at your aged care facility, averting illness, reducing health care and operation costs and improving the living and working environment at your facility.