Infection Control & Prevention For Home Care Environments
When it comes to patient care, one of the biggest concerns that healthcare professionals have is infection control. Hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities will typically take a variety of precautions to lower the risk of infection. These same precautions are just as important when setting up home healthcare settings.
Proper infection control in home care environments comes down to a few important things. First, home healthcare workers need to take the same standard precautions for care as they would in any medical setting. Second, healthcare workers must have access to all the medical supplies they need for patient care as well as supplies to prevent the spread of healthcare-associated infections.
While every home healthcare situation is different, here are some of the basic infection control and infection prevention methods that can be used in any setting.
Hire Licensed Home Healthcare Workers
Home healthcare allows for friends and relatives to continue to live independently in their own home, even with an illness or injury. Home care can cover a wide range of services including nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and hospice care.
Choosing a home care provider may be one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make when it comes to the long-term care of a loved one. Depending on the reason that your loved one may need home care, the type of provider you need can change. However, most home health care workers are licensed nurses, therapists, or home health aides.
When looking for a provider, it’s a good idea to go through a home healthcare agency, public health department, or your hospital when vetting candidates for the position. You can get personal recommendations from friends, neighbors, or your local Area Agency on Aging as well.
While there are home care workers out there that work independent of an agency or healthcare system, you are taking a bigger risk when hiring an independent provider. In these situations, you should conduct thorough interviews and background screenings and require they provide at least 5 recent references.
During the interview process, the procedures and practices for each of the home care providers you’re interviewing should be discussed prior to hiring one. Here are a few of the more important things that you should consider:
▪ How long has the agency or provider been in business in your community?
▪ Is the agency an approved Medicare provider?
▪ Does the agency publish their “Bill of Rights” or a similar document that describes the rights and responsibilities of both the caregiver and the patient?
▪ Is the quality of their care certified by a national organization such as the Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations?
▪ How are prospective employees screened and vetted?
▪ How are the caregivers hired and trained?
▪ How closely do supervisors oversee patient care to ensure quality?
▪ Are agency staff members on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week if necessary?
Infection Control Techniques
Proper infection control starts with well-trained, competent healthcare workers. Making sure that the care providers you hire are competent and compassionate will make a world of difference when it comes to the care of your loved one.
Practice Good Hygiene
When it comes to infection control, practicing good hygiene will be the most important thing to reduce the risk of infection. While there are a number of different precautions that healthcare workers can take to prevent the spread of infections and infectious diseases, here are a few of the most important ones.
The most impactful thing that any home care provider can do is practice good hand hygiene. In the scope of healthcare, proper handwashing requires a bit more than a quick rinse with soap and water.
While different agencies may have different procedures for proper hand hygiene, make sure your provider is familiar with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines on handwashing. It’s important to wash your hands both before and after touching the patient or anything that the patient may come in contact with. Here are a few tips on how to properly wash and disinfect your hands.
▪ Wet your hands with clean, running water. The temperature of the water is not important.
▪ Apply soap to your hands and be sure to create a good lather. Scrub the inside of your hands, the back of your hands, and under your fingernails.
▪ Scrub your hands for a minimum of 30 seconds. If you’re unsure how long this is, you can always sing the alphabet to yourself twice.
▪ After thoroughly scrubbing your hands, rinse them off under clean, running water.
▪ Dry your hands with an unused towel, paper towels, or if possible, air-dry them.
Making sure that your care providers are well-versed and attentive to proper hand hygiene is a crucial step when it comes to infection control.
Clean & Disinfect Surfaces Regularly
Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces are things that should be done regularly in a home healthcare environment to help prevent infection. This will include any surfaces or materials a patient and their home health care provider interacts with.
To start, you should clean the surface thoroughly before disinfecting. This includes removing any organic matter, oils, and anything else that may be visible on the surface in question.
After cleaning the surface, use either a low or intermediate disinfectant to ensure that any pathogens and microorganisms on the surface will be destroyed. While disinfectant wipes and towelettes can be just as effective as a disinfectant spray, it’s advised you use a spray to ensure full coverage of the surface.
Cleaning and disinfecting should be done at least once per day, however, depending on the patient you may need to do this more often. Especially, prior to any administering any healthcare procedures.
For example, if you are going to be changing a catheter, clean and disinfect all the surfaces that the materials will be touching before you begin.
Social distancing is a non-pharmaceutical form of infection control that can be effective in many scenarios and involves reducing the possibility of any contact between an infected person or persons and those that are not infected.
Social distancing can be especially effective when dealing with infections that are transmitted via droplet contact. This involves transmission from coughing, sneezing, physical contact, or airborne transmission.
Social distancing is typically less effective when the infection or disease is transmitted through things like contaminated food, contaminated water, or infected insects like mosquitos.
Medical Supplies For Infection Control
A proper home care environment should be fully stocked with plenty of medical supplies. As every home care scenario will be different, stocking extras of items like IV bags, infusion supplies, catheters, and elastomeric pumps may not always be necessary. However, every home healthcare environment should be fully stocked with plenty of infection control supplies. Here are a few of the most important ones to have on hand.
Alcohol Swabs & Sanitizers
Alcohol swabs are going to be one of the lowest-cost options. While alcohol swabs should not be used to sterilize medical and surgical materials, they are extremely effective at killing a wide range of bacteria and viruses on surfaces.
It is advised that you use ethyl alcohol instead of methyl alcohol as it has a much stronger bactericidal action. Ethyl alcohol at concentrations of 60% - 80% have been shown as a potent agent against all lipophilic viruses including herpes, influenza, and vaccinia. According to the CDC, 95% ethyl alcohol kills the tubercle bacilli in body fluids, sputum or water within 15 seconds.
While alcohol is a powerful disinfectant, it’s not ideal for sterilization. While disinfecting and sterilization are both decontamination processes, they are different. Disinfection is the process of destroying harmful microorganisms from a surface or an object. Sterilization eliminates ALL microorganisms on a surface or an object.
When sterilizing a surface, two of the best options you will have are sterile wipes and sterile sprays. For example, we carry the Sani-Cloth Plus Germicidal Disposable Cloth as an option. These wipes are pre-saturated with a germicidal solution which reduces waste, improves efficiency, and saves time.
When sterilizing medical equipment or medical supplies, it’s always best to use heat, pressure, steam, or chemicals to ensure full sterilization. There are a number of machines that are commercially available for this purpose, such as the BioClave Autoclave. These machines will typically use one or more of the sterilization methods mentioned above.
Disinfecting Port Protectors
Disinfecting caps, also known as disinfecting port protectors, are great for infection control in home care environments where infusions are required. These caps cover the needleless connector which protects it from accidental touch and any potential airborne contamination. Once the cap is applied to the port, disinfection takes about one minute. The cap will continue to protect the port for up to 7 days.
The Wolf-Pak® Disinfecting Cap contains 70% Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) as a disinfectant solution. When the cap is applied to the needleless connector, the IPA bathes the connector’s top as well as the threads.
When using a disinfecting port protector it’s still important to be as cautious as possible when preparing a new infusion for the patient. For example, it’s still important to fully disinfect the valve with an alcohol swab before use, even when a disinfecting cap is being used.
Our Wolf-Pak® disinfecting caps are an excellent alternative to the 3M Curos port protectors and the Swabcap. Want to simplify your ordering and inventory management process and looking to cut down on medical supply costs? Well, we have great news, you can do both at the same time when you buy all of your infusion supplies direct from us. Our in-house brand, Wolf-Pak® provides high-quality supplies at the low cost you are looking for.