With less resilient immune systems, seniors are more susceptible to infection. Infections are a leading cause of death in adults over 65 and seniors with dementia. Those who are in a long-term care facility may be at an even greater risk. Here are a few questions you may want to request answers to when selecting a residential facility.
- What infections commonly occur among residents in this facility?
Long-term care facilities should be tracking the common infections in its residents so they can be sure that actions are taken to reduce the spread of germs to residents.
- When was the last outbreak (i.e. infection spreading among residents) in this facility?
Early detection and quickly alerting public health authorities can help limit the spread of the infection to more residents, staff and visitors.
- How does the facility communicate with residents, family and visitors when an outbreak occurs?
Sometimes a facility might have to restrict visitation or stop new admissions temporarily in order to stop an outbreak. In those situations, it’s very important that everyone is informed about what is happening.
- Is the flu vaccine mandatory for all staff working in this facility?
A growing number of healthcare facilities are making flu shots a requirement for staff as a measure to protect patients and staff from flu.
- If a staff member is sick, is he/she allowed to stay at home (or go home from work) without losing pay or time off?
Long-term care facilities should have sick leave policies because its residents are at increased risk for getting severe infections.
- How are facility staff trained to respond to questions about hand hygiene from residents and family?
Residents and family members should feel comfortable and encouraged to provide helpful reminders to busy staff about cleaning their hands.
- Are residents with new diarrhea given separate toilet facilities until the cause of their diarrhea is determined and/or the diarrhea is resolved?
It’s important to rule out contagious germs like C. difficile, as the cause of diarrhea, because such germs are very tough and difficult to clean from the environment. Separate toilets for an ill resident is one way to prevent the spread of infectious diarrhea.
- How is shared equipment (e.g., objects in the therapy area or common room) managed to prevent the spread of germs?
Clean, disinfected shared equipment can eliminate germs, which can be carried on skin for long periods of time.
- Does the facility have private rooms for residents who develop signs or symptoms of a potentially contagious infection like new cough and fever or new vomiting and abdominal pain?
Containing a contagious germ quickly can prevent spread to other residents, staff and visitors.
- Does the facility provide educational materials for residents and families on hand hygiene, use of gowns/gloves, antibiotic use policies/practices and C. difficile?
Long-term care facilities should have such materials because residents and families are important partners in preventing the spread of infections and reducing misuse of antibiotics.