We talk a lot about the importance of hand hygiene and compliance in healthcare facilities, but what about one of the less obvious health-related facilities – the long-term care facility?
Long term care (LTC) facilities provide more than just assisted living for the elderly. They often provide medical care for individuals who are no longer able to care for themselves, no matter their age. With more than 5 million Americans living in these facilities, infection prevention is a serious issue.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infections are the leading cause of death in long term care patients. It is estimated that between 1 and 3 million infections occur each year in LTC facilities (three per year, per resident on average), resulting in as many as 380,000 deaths.
Not helping matters is the apparent lack of hand hygiene performed by nursing home staff. In fact, there has been an increase in the amount of hand hygiene citations in nursing homes in recent years.
According to Medicare and Medicaid guidelines, hand hygiene is one of the criteria LTC facilities are graded on during inspections. In 2009, the hand hygiene compliance rate of LTC facilities was near 12 percent, meaning more than 1 in 10 nursing homes were found to have substandard hand hygiene practices. But keep in mind, that these numbers are based on “observed” lack of hand hygiene, so even with inspectors watching, staff did not wash their hands[i].
According to a recent article in Nursing Home Law News, there are several factors to blame for the lack of hand hygiene in LTC facilities:
- Lack of convenient washing stations
- Insufficient staffing or overload of duties – the CDC estimates 90 percent of LTC facilities are understaffed
- Empty soap, towels or hand sanitizer containers
- Lack of knowledge and training
- Institutions not making HH a priority
So, what’s LTC facility leadership to do? Implement a hand hygiene compliance program – stat.
According to a recent study in the American Journal of Infection Control, a facility can achieve improved hand hygiene compliance, as well as improve the overall health of a patient population in as little as one year, with an effective program in place.
LTC facilities should consider placing hand sanitizer stations in strategic locations throughout their buildings to encourage use by staff, as well as patients and guests. Educational materials on the importance of infection prevention, and the dangers of increased susceptibility for seniors, can also encourage hand hygiene practices.
For more information on SC Johnson Professional’s solutions for long term care facilities, visit www.scjp.com.