In senior care homes, or nursing homes, infections can easily spread through the population. These infections are far more deadly in older populations than in younger age groups, as we have seen during the pandemic. Outbreaks of COVID-19 tend to spread throughout the homes, infecting many of the patients.
Nursing homes accounted for 69% of COVID-19 deaths in Canada.
Other illnesses also spread at high rates. In recent years, the rate of infection in nursing homes has increased. These infections and illnesses have been associated with an increased mortality rate and increased need for hospitalization.
Infections are often treated with antibiotics, leading to the development of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” in nursing homes, further compounding treatment problems.
Common Types of Infections
Of the infections found in nursing homes, urinary tract (UTI), skin, and respiratory infections are the most common, with UTIs topping the list.
As people get older, they are more likely to contract a UTI. These infections are also more likely to be complicated and recurring than in younger populations. Additionally, older people have more types of UTIs than younger people. E. coli is the most common pathogen associated with UTIs in older patients.
The increase of UTIs in elderly patients has been linked to various factors, including age, menopause, and dehydration. However, diet and personal hygiene were found to be unrelated to UTI development.
When it comes to outbreaks of viruses, nursing homes are especially prone to respiratory infection outbreaks, as we saw with COVID-19. Influenza outbreaks are also common, as are outbreaks of gastrointestinal infections, such as norovirus.
Using copper surfaces in high-touch areas would reduce the spread of infection by killing bacteria and viruses on contact. However, copper surfaces are not yet commonly used in nursing homes.
In nursing homes, cleaning protocols are strict because the spread of illness has a greater potential to be fatal than it does in the general population.
In Ontario’s nursing homes, which they refer to as long-term care homes, the government urges staff to adhere to a proper hand washing protocol, which has been shown to help slow the spread of infection. Also, they recommend that surfaces and furniture are non-porous to make cleaning easier. This means using leather, plastic, or vinyl on seating and not having carpet on the floors.
While these recommendations were put in place for COVID-19, a noticed side benefit has been a marked reduction in influenza cases, likely due to increased hand washing combined with mask use.
To see how strict nursing home cleaning protocols are, we can go to the source and look at a checklist for cleaning at a long-term care facility in Ontario.
When cleaning, the normal routine is to work from the cleanest area to the dirtiest and highest to lowest areas. This means wiping down walls before cleaning the floor, for instance, and cleaning the most soiled or most commonly dirty areas last.
All areas considered high-touch - which is everything a person would commonly touch in a room - are first cleaned with a regular cleaner and then cleaned again with a disinfectant. This includes doors, handholds, bathroom surfaces, hard surfaces on a bed, and tabletop areas.
All cleaning products must be used only according to the manufacturer's instructions, including proper storage.
In addition to regular cleaning products, a high-level disinfectant must also be used in common areas, bathrooms, and rooms with ill residents. All disinfectants must remain on the surface for the time recommended by the manufacturer.
In instances of an outbreak, cleaning frequency is increased in common areas.
Industrial strength cleaners and disinfectants of the sort used in long-term care homes contain harsh chemicals. Some of the cleaners used in health care environments caused staff to experience burning eyes, headaches, and skin burns, among other symptoms.
There is a definite need to ensure that hospitals and care homes are clean and germ-free, but harsh chemicals aren’t necessarily the answer. Or at least, not the complete answer. These chemicals kill germs, but the surface does not stay germ-free. If cleaning protocols are not strictly followed, the surface again becomes a potential source of infection.
Copper, however, continuously kills bacteria and viruses on contact. When used in combination with a strict cleaning protocol, the number of bacteria and viruses on surfaces is severely reduced.
Chemical cleaners are still necessary, but augmenting their use with copper surfaces can lead to a lower rate of transmitted microbes, which can help keep elderly populations healthy.
Want to know more about how copper can reduce bacteria and viruses? Contact Coptek today.