Focus on hygiene

Aged care homes across Australia were rocked by fatal health outbreaks in 2017. SummitCare CEO, Cynthia Payne, says the greatest thing we can do to avoid more disasters is take care of our own personal hygiene.

As people get ready to visit friends and family in aged care homes over the Christmas and holiday period, experts are warning individuals to take care of their personal hygiene. Following numerous outbreaks and a number of influenza deaths at aged care homes this winter, it’s essential people take more care than ever before.

“Residential aged care homes are classified as caring for people who are vulnerable,” explains Form1 client, Cynthia Payne. “People in these communities don’t have the same immune capacity as others – elderly people can die from the flu. We need to raise awareness in the broader community and let them know it’s not ok to visit someone when you have a cold or with flu-like symptoms. Even if you think you have a general cold, you may have the flu. When you’re touching handrails and interacting with older people, you may be putting them at risk.”

While most worry about these illnesses in winter, it’s important to pay attention to hygiene in the warmer months too.

“Every year we’re seeing the flu season come in earlier,” warns Cynthia. “It started earlier in 2017 – it was one of the worst years and there were two strains of the flu. We may need to flu prevention forward next year.”

Form1 takes hygiene seriously and are regularly educating staff about protecting themselves and their clients. “Our monthly Toolbox Talk is a great time to remind our teams that we have a huge responsibility when it comes to protecting our clients and making sure they are safe,” says CEO, Steve Shirlaw.

“We enter these kinds of facilities on a daily basis and we’re always open to transporting germs. Our teams are aware of the hygiene standards and we’re now planning to install hand sanitisers in all our trucks. We are serious about safety and passionate about people, so hygiene is naturally a priority for us. In this case it’s the simple things that make the biggest difference,” adds Steve.

“I appreciate working with businesses like Form1,” exclaims Cynthia. “When I spoke to Steve (Shirlaw) about this issue a light switched on for him. His workers move in and out of these areas all the time and may not realise the hand sanitisers are for them too. It’s important to make sure people know, if they are showing symptoms to change their routine so they’re not cross contaminating. A lot of it’s common sense but we need to keep educating people.”  

Health outbreaks can have a huge and costly effect on a facility. “We only need two cases for a health issue to be classified as an outbreak and we go into lockdown, which means we can’t take admissions,” says Cynthia.

“It’s like being on a cruise ship – you know what happens if someone is sick and there’s an outbreak. It can be catastrophic and in the case of aged care, fatal.”

If you’re thinking of visiting loved ones, in aged care or other vulnerable facilities this Christmas, do your part and make personal hygiene a priority.

4 ways to protect others

1 Be aware of the risks coming into the flu season.
2 Be proactive – have a flu vaccination.
3 Pay attention to personal hygiene. If there are basins and sanitiser available use them when you arrive and again when you leave.
4 If you have symptoms do not come. Use Skype or talk to loved ones on the phone. Remote visits are also beneficial and much better over a physical visit at times like this.

Photo by Tiago Muraro on Unsplash