Updated: Aug 28
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of keeping surfaces clean and disinfecting to prevent the further spread of the virus. This emphasis on cleaning has become especially important in densely populated areas like apartment buildings, stores, and retirement homes where large number of people will interact with the same surfaces and possibly spread the disease. Consistent cleaning practices can lessen this potential to spread the virus.
According to the New York Times, more than 40% of U.S. coronavirus deaths are linked to nursing homes. Ensuring cleanliness would make senior living facilities safer as surfaces would be at less risk of carrying disease, and therefore would put residents and workers at less risk of catching and spreading the virus. Regular cleaning procedures would keep surfaces consistently clean and risk-free. The COVID-19 Toolkit for long term care facilities created by the Minnesota Department of Health recommends that staff develop routines for handling "laundry, food service utensils, and medical waste [which] should be performed in accordance with routine procedures." It also further recommends that regular cleaning be conducted for frequently touched surfaces and porous surfaces (couches, chairs, curtains, etc.) where germs can work into the fabric. Most recently, The New York Times reported traces of the coronavirus were found in frozen food. Further procedures suggested by the toolkit include ensuring all food is cleaned from suppliers to prevent outside contamination, cleaning all food will keep germs from entering the facility.
Clean Environment Improves Mental Health
Cleanliness is also vital for the overall morale and mental health of residents and staff members. It makes the space more inviting, and everyone will feel safer living and working in the facility. This is especially the case in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Harvard University, COVID-19 is capable of living on surfaces for up to 2 days, so cleaning regularly is essential to prevent infections and reduce mental anxiety over catching the virus.
Conducting Cleaning Audits
Senior living facilities can conduct cleaning audits by surveying residents and staff members in addition to the regular inspections conducted by the joint health and safety committee. Survey results allow the facility management team to assess what actions need to be taken to ensure both residents and workers feel safe living and working in the care home. Pulse surveys are exceptionally beneficial for evaluating cleaning procedures and their efficacy through frequent real-time feedback from residents and staff members. The feedback data collected helps identify hotspots and indicates whether these issues are one-time events or recurring themes.
Automate Cleaning Audits Through Technology
Cleaning audits can be digitized by (1) going paperless and (2) scheduling and executing audits and pulse surveys through automation. The real value to digitizing feedback is the ability to get real-time feedback from residents and staff members at the frequency, speed, and scale technology can provide, so that facility staff and management can prioritize and respond to issues that put residents and workers most at risk. Click here to learn how the senior care industry is accelerating technology adoption.
Perception vs. Reality
Receiving a low score from a cleaning audit does not necessarily mean the facility did not do a thorough job cleaning. In some instances, cleaners might not be working when facility staff members or residents are present. Care home providers need to improve communication with residents and staff members and share what cleaning protocols are in place to keep them safe. When perception is not carefully managed, it becomes a reality!
Example of Cleaning Audit Questions
✅ The rooms are clean and free from clutter.
✅ Hard surfaces and fabric chairs are free of visible dust, marks, and soiling.
✅ Assist rails are free of visible dust, soiling, and stains.
✅ Electric switches/plates are free of visible dust, soiling, and stains.
✅ Alcohol-based hand rub dispensers are available and easily accessible.
✅ The floor beneath the dispenser is free from the product.
✅ Computers and keyboards are free of visible dust, soil, smudges, and stains.
✅ Glass inside is free of visible dust, smudge marks, and adhesives.
✅ Communal and residents' rooms are free from unpleasant smells/mal-odors.
✅ Handwashing facilities in communal toilets have only wall mounted liquid soap and paper towel dispensers (no bars of soap or fabric towels or nail brushes).
✅ Lifting aids are waterproof, easy to clean, and appropriately maintained.
COVID-19 is a catalyst for improving the physical safety of residents and staff members. Unfortunately, this won't be our last pandemic, and every care home provider should use this crisis as an opportunity to instill and improve their environmental cleaning practices and the health and safety culture for its residents and workers.
How Can We Help?
Retainify offers a unified solution that allows senior living facilities to customize and automate their employee and resident satisfaction surveys to measure what matters to them. Our cost-effective solution can be deployed in less than 24 hours with minimal effort, and customers can access feedback from their staff and residents in real-time.
Find out more at https://www.retainify.com/seniorliving
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Department of Health, M. (2020). COVID-19 Toolkit INFORMATION FOR LONG - TERM CARE FACILITIE S. Retrieved 2020, from https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/hcp/ltctoolkit.pdf
Publishing, H. (2020). COVID-19 basics. Retrieved July 10, 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-basics