Hand hygiene in the care sector

Staying healthy thanks to hand hygiene

Care staff have a particular responsibility when it comes to preventing infectious diseases, which is why hand hygiene is an important element of their daily duties.

Special regulations apply in elderly and other care homes aimed at protecting the residents and care staff from infectious diseases. Hand hygiene plays an important role in the reduction of infectious diseases. So, what do care facilities need to pay attention to and how can they help their staff to comply with the requirements? 

Special hygiene requirements apply in elderly and other care homes. After all, infectious diseases can spread quickly in places where many people live side by side. The elderly and other people who may be frail as a result of existing medical conditions are also more susceptible to infectious diseases than healthy individuals.

As such, many regulations such as Section 11 of the German Care Home Act (HeimG) oblige care homes to guarantee sufficient protection of the residents against infections and ensure that staff comply with the pertinent hygiene requirements.

In Germany, care homes must define internal protocols on infection control hygiene and lay them down in hygiene plans – as stipulated in the German Protection against Infection Act (IfSG).

Hand hygiene is an important aspect in this. After all, infectious diseases are passed from hand to hand. Care staff are no exception. For this reason, they have a particular responsibility when it comes to preventing infectious diseases.

Hygiene plans in care facilities

Hygiene plans contain clear provisions on which hand hygiene measures must be complied with depending on the duties to be performed and the special requirements of the residents for whom care is being provided. Aspects of quality assurance are also included. The hygiene plan must be made available to all members of staff.

Infectious diseases can also pose a considerable risk to older and frail individuals.
Infectious diseases can also pose a considerable risk to older and frail individuals.

In addition, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) also recommends making a hand hygiene plan available at the point of care. It explains all about hand disinfection and answers the five important questions: who, what, when, what with and how? For example, the hand hygiene plan stipulates among other things that staff should disinfect their hands before starting work. 

The plan also states that staff and visitors should wash their hands thoroughly using soap and pay attention to the problem areas especially if soiling is visible or after using a washroom.

The hand hygiene plan should be made available at the location where the hands are disinfected in a disinfectable protective sleeve or in laminated form. To ensure that each member of staff has read and understood the specifications, care facilities must also instruct each member in the hygiene plan and document the procedure. 

Pathogens can be found on both furniture and textiles.

5 Moments for Hand Hygiene

So, when should care staff disinfect their hands? To put it simply: multiple times a day. To be more precise, whenever they come into contact with a resident or a resident’s surroundings and when performing duties where they might come into contact with or transfer pathogens. Such situations are summed up as the 5 Moments for Hand Hygiene. According to the WHO, healthcare staff should disinfect their hands in the following situations:

  1. before touching a patient;
  2. before clean/aseptic procedures;
  3. after body fluid exposure/risk;
  4. after touching a patient; and
  5. after touching patient surroundings – in other words, the bed or other furniture and objects.

Hand hygiene in such situations protects not only the patient, but also the care staff against infections. As such, hand hygiene has a positive effect on the state of health in care facilities.

Disinfectants directly at the point of care

If hand hygiene is neglected in elderly and other care homes, it is often down to one specific reason: a lack of time. Specialised personnel are already in short supply in such facilities. If another colleague falls ill, the team is stretched to the limit.

Care facilities can help staff to comply with hand hygiene requirements by providing dispensers with disinfectant directly at the point of care – in other words, right where the patients are. After all, this is where the majority of the Moments of Hand Hygiene occur.

Choosing non-touch dispenser systems such as the Paradise Disinfect NT increases the protection against infectious diseases even further. In addition, if residents see care staff paying special attention to hand hygiene, they are more likely to put their trust in the employees and the facility as a whole

Pay attention to skin compatibility

Both handwashing and disinfection can be detrimental to the skin’s natural protective layer. Even more so if an alcohol-based disinfectant is used, as the skin dries out quicker and the risk of skin conditions rises.

That doesn’t have to be the case. Special formulas without alcohol are gentle on the skin and are no less effective against bacteria and other germs. Ensure that the disinfectant complies with the requirements on “hygienic handwashing (EN 1499)” and “hygienic hand disinfection (EN 1500)” as well as concepts such as HACCP and other hygiene regulations.

Customised skin protection programmes help care staff to protect their skin.
Customised skin protection programmes help care staff to protect their skin.

A customised skin protection programme helps staff to care for, clean and protect their skin. It is comprised of products tailored to the facility’s requirements and a skin protection plan describing the use of the products in detail. In addition, each skin protection plan is customised for the specific facility – taking into consideration the statutory hygiene guidelines for the respective sector.

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