Unique Challenges of Aged Care Cleaning

Recent incidents in the news have prompted us to write about this topic. Being a cleaning supplies provider we get to interact with a variety of cleaners for different industries and learn the unique challenges they face. An aged care facility is not only a medical care center but also an accommodation site, a food preparation and service area. Thus maintaining the appearance and cleanliness of an aged care facility can be challenging.

Aged Care facilities are bound by high cleanliness standards. The Accreditation Standards are detailed in the Quality of Care Principles 2014. There are four Standards. Each Standard consists of a principle and a number of expected outcomes. There are 44 expected outcomes across the four Standards. Residential Aged Care homes must comply with these Standards at all times.

Infection control is a primary concern with Aged Care facilities. Specifically to prevent outbreaks of novovirus gastroentritis, MRSA and VEA, which are common in the sector.
With elderly residents being far more susceptible to infection, and also taking longer to recover once they are infected, hygiene and sanitation are of utmost importance in the aged care industry. There can be no room for error as not only is your reputation on line but so is your accreditation.

A key part of ensuring that infections are kept to a minimum or eliminated is to deep clean all high contact surfaces as part of a regular routine. Surfaces that are in close proximity to the patient and frequently touched surfaces in the patient-care area need to be cleaned more frequently than minimal touch surfaces. Examples include door knobs. bed rails, tabletops, light switches, telephones etc.Patients bathrooms are amongst the most important areas in which to ensure touch points are thoroughly disinfected. If they aren't there is an extremely high risk of cross-contamination.

While shared clinical equipment comes into contact with intact skin only and is therefore unlikely to introduce infection, it can transfer infectious agents between patients (Microbiological Advisory Committee to the Department of Health 2006). Examples of possible contaminated surfaces on shared clinical equipment include haemodialysis machines, X-Ray machines, instrument trolleys and dental units. Cleaning frequencies for specific shared clinical equipment is outlined in Section B5.1 of  the NHMRC Guidlines.

Part of the cleaning strategy is to minimize contamination of cleaning solutions and cleaning equipment. Proper procedures for effective use of mops, cloths and chemicals needs to be followed.

Aged Care facilities use a variety of systems to ensure that cleaning standards are met. These include checklists, color coding to reduce cross contamination, cleaning manuals, infection control guidance, and monitoring strategies. Some states and territories have cleaning standards that are applied to healthcare facilities regardless of whether cleaning services are contracted or performed in-house.

Cleaners working in an aged care environment need not only the ability to perform tasks efficiently but also a sympathetic attitude towards the residents. They need to exercise discretion and respect for the residents privacy. They also need to know when to alert the staff for medical assistance and have specialized training for palliative care and discharge cleaning.

Another critical aspect of Aged Care cleaning is the requirement to clean  during the day and navigating around residents, nurses, staff, visitors and also around medical equipment within that environment. The cleaner needs to be aware of not only their personal movement but also of cleaning equipment, cords, buckets and mops etc. as there is an increased risk of trips, falls and injuries.

Another major discussion around Aged Care cleaning is the use of chemicals.Cleaning products and systems are crucial in effective infection prevention and control strategies. Many of the chemicals regularly stored and used in aged care facilities are classified as hazardous.

Hazardous chemicals are substances, mixtures or articles that can be harmful to a user's health if they are ingested, touched, inhaled or come into contact with the eyes. They may also cause property and environmental damage.

These substances can pose a serious risk to the health and safety of workers, residents and family members who may sustain injuries from direct exposure through skin contact or inhalation. Care should be taken to identify the risks associated with hazardous chemicals. Where possible, workers should perform cleaning tasks without using hazardous chemicals, substituting them with less toxic alternatives.

It makes a lot of sense to use 'green' cleaning products in healthcare facilities. They typically contain fewer harsh chemicals without compromising on product effectiveness. An article in the Inclean magazine May/June 2017 www.incleanmag.com.au by Emma Berthold from Good Environmental Choice Australia www.geca.org.au is a good read on the topic.

Our website 

Kelly Broderick, The Unique Challenges of Aged Care Cleaning,
www.incleanmag.com.au, May/June 2017.

Hazardous Chemicals, Substances & Dangerous Goods in Aged Care

Recommended Routine Cleaning Frequencies for Clinical, patient and Resident Areas in Acute Settings


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