Why is hygiene important?
Good hygiene practices are essential in preventing the spread of illness, and keeping people healthy. Within a care home, good hygiene is essential as our immune system begins to weaken with age and can become more susceptible to illness.
Bad hygiene in a care home can increase the spread of germs and prove dangerous or fatal for residents who have existing health issues. Good hygiene practice creates a much happier environment for residents and employees, critical for good wellbeing and morale. In this guide, we will discuss all of the questions you may have about improving hygiene in care homes and also personal hygiene care for the elderly.
Care Quality Commission
When it comes to regulating hygiene in care homes, the Care Quality Commission is an independent regulator of health and adult social care in England. There are five key areas the CQC focus on when inspecting care homes, which all staff should be aware of:
Hygiene equipment and consumables
We realise the importance of good hygiene within a care home and we have a range of housekeeping equipment to aid staff in keeping areas clean. All areas of a nursing home need to be cleaned to maximise comfort for residents. As well as communal areas and bedrooms, toilets, baths, showers, and bathroom floors need to be thoroughly cleaned to minimise the chances of spreading disease - something that the elderly are more susceptible to catching. For washrooms, our NHS-approved CareClean starter kit can be used to kill bacteria in bathrooms, kitchens, and general areas.
For cleaning floors, our various coloured mops maximise cleanliness by ensuring staff use the same mop for the same work area to limit the spread of germs.
Colour coding can be extremely helpful when it comes to hygiene in the care home. All cloths, mops, buckets, aprons and gloves could be colour coded, and if done so, it is recommended to use the following coding:
- Red: bathrooms, washrooms, showers, baths, toilets
- Blue: general areas such as resident's rooms and offices
- Green: kitchen areas
- Yellow: isolation rooms
Hygiene is also essential in creating a homely environment for your residents so they can be as relaxed as possible in a sometimes unfamiliar environment to them. A clean and fresh smelling environment can be achieved using products like our P&G fresh scented cleaner, or Zybax, ensuring that residents are in a clean space as well as reassuring visitors that their loved ones are in a safe and clean environment.
It's vital that all medical equipment is sterilised (a process which cleans an object and rids it of all microorganisms), and it is recommended that supplies are bought pre-sterilised. Staff must be aware of ‘single-use labels' which mean that equipment is only intended to be used once and then discarded. Alternatively, they can be labelled as ‘do not re-use'. There are also ‘single patient use' products which can be used by only the same patient a number of times, yet must be cleaned appropriately after each use.
Clean and hygienic kitchen surfaces and dining areas are kept clean and hygienic and staff are dressed accordingly. It's important for staff within a care home wear protective clothing and gloves when handling food. Food must always be stored safely, but especially so due to an elderly population being more prone to disease from unhygienic handled food. For more information on food safety, visit the NHS website.
Catering disposables can be used and discarded. However, this produces waste which must be handled and disposed by staff efficiently.
Linen can be used to create a comfortable and homely environment for your residents and must be cleaned often to limit a spread of disease. Waterproof mattress covers can be ideal for individuals who suffer from incontinence. Bedding should be washed a minimum of once a week generally, yet in a care home, linen will need to be monitored daily as there may be leaks from incontinence or blood from dry skin that will need to be cleaned for patient comfort and hygiene.
For washing linen, there needs to be a designated laundry area solely for that purpose with its own ventilation, separate from food preparation areas. It's recommended that linen is separated into 3 categories, which can be organised easier through colour-coordinated bags. The categories are as follows:
- Used linen: used for bed, towels etc. Including linen infected with urine.
- Known or suspected infected linen: soiled by blood, faeces and other infectious substances.
- Heat labile fabrics: such as clothing that is likely to be damaged by heat disinfection process.
Personal hygiene care for the elderly is extremely important. Personal elderly hygiene products should be available to all residents, such as:
- Hair brushes
- Nail clippers
- Incontinence pads
- Aids for washing hair if patients cannot use the shower
- No Rinse Shampoo caps, etc.
Staying clean not only has a positive effect on minimising the spread of germs, but also improves residents' happiness and comfort. To keep clean, staff should ensure that residents:
- Wash hands regularly
- Wash their face everyday
- Have a shower/ bath a least twice or three times a week
- Wash genitals daily
It's imperative that whilst staff help to keep patients hygienic, they also help to preserve their dignity. Helping to wash a resident can make them feel embarrassed and self-conscious and as a member of staff it is important that you respect the individual and are aware of their emotional state.
Though it is important that residents are washed either in a shower, bath or bed bath depending on their level of dependency, care must be taken to ensure the comfort and hygiene of individuals.
To ensure washing is a positive experience, it's important to:
- Formulate a routine which suits the resident
- Where do they prefer to get undressed?
- Do they prefer a specific member of staff they feel comfortable with?
- Are they afraid of overhead showers or deep water?
- Do they have preference of fragrance for shampoo and shower gel?
- Try playing calming music
- Give residents as much independence as is safe for them
Access to handwash is vital for both staff and residents. Germs can spread easily through unwashed hands, and this can be effectively minimised using our range of soap and dispensers. Hands should be washed by staff on the following occasions, as detailed by the NHS:
- Before touching a resident
- After touching a resident
- Before performing a clean procedure
- After performing a dirty procedure
- When coming away from a resident's environment
Hands should be washed by residents and visitors:
- Before and after eating
- After using the toilet
All patients, staff and visitors should wash their hands and dry them thoroughly. Certain residents will require additional assistance with hand washing as they may be too immobile to do this themselves.
Washing hands with soap and water is the most hygienic way to clean hands. Although alcohol-based hand sanitisers can also be helpful within a care home if hands are not visibly dirty. Hand sanitiser should not solely be used:
- When hands are dirty
- If your hands are contaminated by bodily fluid
- If you have/ are caring for someone with diarrhoea and/or vomiting
In these cases, soap and water must be used for the appropriate contact time for soap activation.
Oral hygiene for the elderly is essential and must be monitored by staff. It can sometimes be an embarrassing topic for residents and all staff must be considerate.
- As residents may become immobile or forgetful, it's important for their health that staff assist them in brushing their teeth twice daily.
- As we age, dry mouth can occur from the body changing and also medication. As saliva fights bacteria, it is important that staff provide residents with plenty of water and aid them whilst they drink.
- To prevent tooth decay in the elderly, using fluoride toothpaste can help to improve oral health. However, choice of toothpaste remains with the patient if they prefer or are used to a particular taste.
- Cleaning dentures must be a part of daily routine. Some residents may find it embarrassing to remove their dentures so staff must provide a friendly and caring environment in which they feel comfortable. Light humour can often work as a way of relaxing patients, yet this depends on their mood and personality.
If you need advice regarding any hygiene products for care homes, don't hesitate to get in touch with our inhouse national trainer and customer care team here at Beaucare.