The staff at a senior living facility does work that is critical to a healthy society. Not only because our seniors deserve to live in dignity and comfort, but also because infectious disease poses a greater threat in senior living facilities – a threat to both senior residents and society as a whole. Mike Nelson explains why in Cleaning & Maintenance Management magazine:
[Senior living] facilities rank with day-care centers, schools, and some medical facilities as home to a host of infectious diseases, germs, and bacteria that are usually not encountered in other types of cleaning situations, such as offices. Furthermore, unlike in office settings, the people that live in or use these facilities are usually older, possibly sick, may have weakened immune systems, and are often more vulnerable to disease than the general public.
In order to stay ahead of infectious disease, senior living facility staff needs a detailed cleaning plan, outlining methods, frequencies, and response plans for every area of the facility. This blog will briefly cover some of the basics. For a comprehensive look at senior living cleaning, we recommend Karen T. Stratoti’s expansive resource: Disaster Planning, Infection Control, and OSHA Compliance: A Toolkit for Senior Living. You can read an excerpt from it here.
Follow a two-step process of cleaning.
Two-Step Cleaning Method for Senior Living
In order to effectively remove pathogens and the biofilm that harbors and feeds them, workers must employ the two-step cleaning method. The first step, cleaning, focuses on the removal of soil and contaminants from surfaces by dislodging them with a cleaning solution and friction. The second step, disinfecting, involves applying a disinfectant for the recommended dwell time and allowing it to kill any pathogens that remain on a surface, rendering them harmless.
Stratoti emphasizes the importance of having a hazardous chemical program in place with safety data sheets (SDS), proper labeling, and safety trainings for every chemical. Harsh cleaning chemicals can injure cleaning workers who do not use them properly or wear the recommended personal protective equipment (PPE). To make the job easier and safer for senior living workers, choose effective cleaning solutions without toxic ingredients.
Cleaning Frequencies in Senior Living Facilities
Stratoti points out that creating a cleaning schedule with optimum frequencies is more complex in a senior living environment, due to the need to honor the philosophy of care in such facilities. In addition to facility usage and cleanliness, a cleaning schedule must take into consideration the resident’s choice, independence, privacy, individuality, and dignity in addition to creating a homelike environment. She also points out that a cleaning schedule isn’t everything.
“While it is important to keep on schedule, it is just as important to be flexible and willing to work with unplanned situations that may arise,” said Stratoti. “The main goal is to serve the needs and preferences of the residents.”
Senior Living Response Plans
Communication among staff members is key.
Without a doubt, senior living facilities see a greater number of unexpected cleanup scenarios than many other facility types. In order to maintain a homelike environment, spills, accidents, and emergencies must be handled quickly and safely in a way that preserves dignity and privacy for residents. When it comes to cleaning response, a little planning can go a long way to creating a smoother process.
In order to coordinate a response, workers must be able to communicate with each other quickly. A pager system or two-way radio system allows a supervisor to contact a worker with greatest availability and immediately deploy them. Assemble and stage response kits for spills, incontinence, or resident injury. This will reclaim time spent gathering supplies. If cleaning duties are shared between in-house staff and a contract cleaning company, supervisors should meet and decide where each group’s responsibility begins and ends when it comes to cleanup response. After a spill, accident, or emergency, the last thing staff will need is confusion.
Planning Pays Off
Formulating a cleaning plan for a senior living facility is an enormous undertaking. There are countless regulations, best practices, and human factors to take into consideration. However, thorough planning and preparation will pay off in spades by preventing infection, reducing risk, and improving resident satisfaction.