Current Activities in Long Term Care
By Kate Lynch, Editor  www.activities4elders.com/
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The infectious disease season is here—
What YOU can do

It’s wintertime, and the respiratory disease season is upon us. While many of us accept
the fact that we’re going to get respiratory diseases in the winter ... and find ways to
cope ... such diseases are serious, and can be life-threatening, for our elders.
These diseases include flu, pneumonia, and colds, and they can spread very quickly in
the confined space of health care facilities.

But ... there are things you can do to help prevent the spread of these diseases, and
most of them are simple and easy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the first line of
defense is vaccination for those diseases that have vaccines, which include the flu and
pneumonia.

Get your flu shots
The CDC recommends that all healthcare workers and all of your elders ... and
especially those with serious conditions who are  at risk of serious illness ... get an
annual flu shot.

“When high vaccination rates are achieved in closed or semi-closed settings, the risk of
outbreaks is reduced because of the induction of something called ‘herd immunity,’”
says the CDC.

“Herd immunity” means that it’s a lot more difficult to pass the disease from person to
person, in a closed setting, when large numbers of its population are vaccinated. The
higher the levels of vaccination, the lower the chances that the disease will spread.
Elders should get a pneumonia shot

Pneumonia is a very serious disease for elders and causes high death rates among
those who get it. Sometimes, it’s associated with the flu. Elders who get the flu can then
get pneumonia as well, and be in a very serious condition.
But a pneumonia vaccine is available, and experts recommend that everyone over age
65 should receive a vaccination against pneumococcal pneumonia.

Good sanitation
Good sanitation practices are a must in preventing the spread of infectious diseases in
your facility. And one of the basics is good handwashing practices.
The CDC says that “clean hands are the single most important factor in preventing the
spread of pathogens and antibiotic resistance in healthcare settings.”
You should wash your hands vigorously, and frequently:

  • before and after bodily contact with residents.
  • before and after eating.
  • before and after delivering food or other materials to residents.
  • after sneezing.
  • after handling soiled equipment or utensils.
  • before and after food preparation.
  • after going to the bathroom or taking a resident to the bathroom.
  • whenever hands are soiled.
  • before and after using gloves.
  • before and after inserting catheters or other invasive devices.

Plus, you should instruct visitors on these handwashing practices, too.
Note: the CDC says an alcohol rub is as good as soap, unless hands are visibly soiled,
and is easier on the skin.

Handwashing technique
The CDC’s recommended hand washing technique includes the following.
When using alcohol handrubs:

  • Apply to palm of one hand and rub hands together, covering all surfaces until dry.
  • Volume: Based on manufacturer’s instructions.
  • When handwashing:
  • Wet hands with water, apply soap, and rubhands together for at least 15
    seconds.
  • Rinse and dry with disposable towel. Use the towel to turn off the faucet.

How to use gloves
What about gloves? Here’s what the CDC says about them:
Wearing gloves reduces the risk of health care workers’ acquiring infections from
patients and helps prevent germs from being transmitted from workers to residents.

  • Gloves should be used when caregivers have contact with blood or other body
    fluids.
  • Gloves should be removed after caring for a patient.
  • The same pair of gloves should not be worn for the care of more than one
    patient.
  • Gloves should not be washed or reused.
  • You should wash your hands after taking off the gloves.

Other things the CDC recommends to prevent the spread of infection in your facility:

  • Establish a multi-disciplinary team to study and monitor infection control. This is
    a good idea, as it gets the expertise of several people involved. This team
    should include caregivers from many areas of your facility, including CNA
    representation.
  • Keep your facility clean. Make sure all surfaces are cleaned and disinfected
    regularly.
  • Make sure air conditioners and ventilation systems are cleaned and disinfected
    frequently.
  • Educate visitors ... and also your residents ... about good hand hygiene.