Infections are a part of everyday life in any workplace. For those of us in aged care, infection prevention and control are a vital part of the role.
Older individuals may not be able to fight infection because their immune systems are more vulnerable. Surgery and devices such as catheters increase the likelihood of infection. Ageing can also mean time in hospital, where exposure to infection can increase. This is why hygiene in aged care is so vital.
Infection is spread via contact, droplet and/or airborne transfer and, according to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)1, standard precautions should include:
* hand washing
* coughing etiquette
* personal protective equipment
* hygienic handling of medical devices
* managing spills
* safe handling of food, waste and linen.
These procedures can involve a lot of extra equipment and actions. This could be confusing for residents, so it’s helpful to explain the importance of hygiene in aged care, what you are doing and why. That way, your residents understand that every effort is being made to protect them from infection.
Hand hygiene is one of the simplest ways to reduce the spread of infections but it is also the most effective.
A study by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that hand washing could reduce the risk of diarrhoea by 47%2. The World Health Organization WHO recently developed Five Moments for Hand Hygiene. It presents a simple and logical approach to hand washing in a wide range of settings. It’s also important to keep your skin healthy by using hand cream regularly.
Look after yourself
In aeroplanes, we are told to put on our own oxygen masks before helping others. The same applies to your own health. Look after yourself first by staying at home when you are sick. Residents and the staff members at aged care facilities are the most likely sources of infectious agents1 so protect others by staying away until you are symptom free for 48 hours.
More information, including posters and fact sheets on how to stop the spread of disease and infection and maintain good hygiene in aged care facilities can be found on the NHMRC website.