Hand washing in nursing homes keeps infections at bay. Some facilities continue to fail hand hygiene inspections, though. Experts suggest the increase in infractions is a result of increasingly thorough inspections aimed at controlling infections. Likewise, understaffed and undertrained staff members could be less vigilant at following guidelines. No matter why hand hygiene guidelines are not followed, they are an important precaution that protects nursing home patients.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid are responsible for writing the guidelines for nursing home inspections. Caregivers must wash their hands before and after they handle residents, serve food, help with personal hygiene or change linens. They are also required to wash their hands at the beginning and end of every shift.
From 2000 to 2009, facility citations nationwide rose from 7.4 percent to 12 percent.
Serious infections easily spread when hand-washing techniques are not followed. MRSA and Clostridium difficile are two infections that pass between staff and patients. Already frail or sick nursing home patients may never recover from these dangerous infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers educational training programs as well as management training that helps facilities comply with safety guidelines and prevent the spread of infections.
With staff often needing to wash their hands more than 100 times a day, it can be easy to forget or grow lazy. Nursing homes, however, must make hand washing a priority. Likewise, visitors must vigilantly remember to wash their hands before and after each visit and as they provide personal care for their loved ones. With proper hand washing, nursing home patients are less likely to contract a dangerous infection spread through personal contact.
Source: The New York Times, “The Dirty Little Secret of Nursing Homes,” Paula Span, August 27, 2012.
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