Never Overlook Hygiene in a Care Facility
The phrase “respect your elders” is ingrained in most minds. This phrase, however, has been lost its sheen over the years and a recent visit to ‘Aseervatham’ endorses it. ‘Aseervatham’ claims to be a care home for elders and it was sort of a first time experience for me of what all things can go wrong in a care home. You cannot compare it with a pigsty as pigsty gets cleaned everyday. It was a shock to me that children have no qualms in admitting their parents to such care homes overlooking the unhygienic conditions. The inmates, who need help to do even the most mundane of daily tasks, are often disregarded and left in unsanitary conditions for long periods of time. Who bothers? Remember, cleanliness is an attitude.
Life threatening conditions can develop when care homes do not keep up with their sanitation needs. When germs and bacteria spread, vulnerable elders can be affected in a negative way. This is especially important because these infirm elders are most likely to have medical conditions that, along with poor hygiene, can wreck havoc on their health.
It is of utmost importance that care facilities maintain high standards of cleanliness and personal hygiene for all their residents. Poor hygiene in a care facility can often be a cause of serious health complications for the patients living there. This can be especially dangerous for patients suffering with debilitating diseases such as cancer – where even something as simple as a cold can lead to massive medical complications. Moreover, the bacteria and germs all over the place can also affect the senior citizens under care, compromising their immunity, which will exasperate their medical complication. The increasing age of elder patients further inhibits their body’s ability to counter such diseases.
Most infections prevalent among care home residents are attributed to poor hygienic conditions. Moreover, nurses and other staff members neglect providing optimal care such as changing bandages, diapers, etc. on time, which is something that can also lead to medical emergencies. Lack of hygiene and sanitation can cause them to suffer preventable diseases that could be avoided by the nursing home that practices proper hygiene. In many cases, the reason why a nursing home might not be putting the appropriate attention to hygiene is because of a lack of staff or resources to keep up with this important daily task.
The care home’s staff often fails to recognize the importance of hygiene given their lack of training and basic awareness. Many times, due to understaffing, employees may come under excess workload and may simply forget to carry out their necessary duties to ensure they provide professional care when it comes giving patients a bath, serving them food, etc. For example, not washing hands can lead to numerous problems such as infection and other types of problems that sensitive patient will not be able to bear. Training is therefore a big must when it comes to successfully running a nursing home.
Not only can care facilities disregard the patients’ needs for cleanliness and basic personal hygiene, but the care facility itself may also be lacking cleanliness. The physical environment is also an area of concern for care homes where proper hygiene is important. It is possible that toilets, showers, bathtubs, bathroom floors, and rooms are not properly sanitized. This can lead to the propagation of germs which could ultimately cause disease and infections.
The kitchen area, where food is prepared and served to care home residents, is also a place where it is vital to have the utmost cleanliness possible. The kitchen staff needs to be properly dressed for the job and take all the necessary measures to handle food hygienically. Also, the dining area needs to be sanitized, including the tables, chairs, buffet tables, floors, and every other area that is touched or handled by the residents.
Most aged care facilities have insufficient number of caring staff thereby compromising the caring standards. Lack of basic maintenance and janitors could be the cause of poor cleanliness in caring facilities. Healthy patient-nurse ratio must be maintained otherwise, the caring staff feels exhausted and they overlook hygiene. When there are many urgent situations going on at once, a nurse might forget to wash her hands between treating different patients. This is how germs can easily spread throughout the facility, affecting everybody living there.
Management has the responsibility to train staff to take proper hygiene measures to ensure the health of the residents. Care homes with the right amount of trained staff are less likely to have issues with poor hygiene. Cleanliness is of vital importance in this type of facility and cannot be overlooked. Relatives who wish to admit their parents should be observant and seek hygiene protocols of the facility and can also personally inspect the facility. In many western countries, care facilities can be liable for improper care of their patients due to lack of hygiene, which is not the case with our country.
(Soumya Nair is from Bangalore, India and is a practicing Social Gerontologist at advantAGE seniors. She is the co-founder of this 17 year old company. She has been a social gerontologist since 2002, which was her inspiration for writing this well researched article. She loved being with her elderly patients, and she wrote this article highlighting the importance of hygiene in care facilities as she noticed the appalling conditions in few existing care homes. She insists that the ‘consumer’ of long-term care definitely deserves more personal hygiene and a clean environment. Soumya hopes country’s long-term care needs overhauling changes so that elders would receive the best treatment that is necessary and so much deserved to elders.)