5 Christmas Infection Control Tips for RACFs

Christmas Infection Control might not be at the top of your wishlist this Christmas, but it’s important. As another major holiday period approaches, both residents, their families and RACF staff should think about infection prevention.

What are effective measures for infection control at Christmas?

Here are a few ideas for the holiday season:

1. Teamwork for Christmas Holidays

With some of your permanent clinical, cleaning, laundry and catering staff on holiday, or the medical practices and a pharmacy closed for several days, residents can need extra care. Make sure to plan ahead and consider making contingency plans in case of staff illness. Your team needs to remain extra alert: if cleaning staff are on vacation, for example, everyone needs to take special care to wipe surfaces and do prompt clean-ups and proper environmental cleaning and disinfection to ensure that cleanliness remains at a high standard.

Residents in aged care homes are fragile and often living with multiple chronic conditions or recovering from a recent accident or surgery.  An admission to the hospital creates the natural fear of contracting an MRO or viral infection that could cause a life-long dependence on medical care, or, even worse, cause their death. A good IPC strategy to have timely access to GP service over the whole festive season to improve residents’ safety and decrease aged care staff workload. Residents’ families want their loved one to enjoy Christmas in comfort, and rightly so.

2. Christmas Decorations

Whilst a well-decorated and cheery facility entrance can put a smile on everyone’s face, remember that there may be risks involved with festive decorations in other residential care areas. Unfortunately, Christmas decorations can also hold germs. Ornaments, and Christmas trees, cannot be washed or easily cleaned, so they can harbour dirt, dust and even norovirus. Consider, also, using an artificial tree to avoid the risks from pine needles. Some IPC experts advise replacing decorations every five years, and throwing out decorations that are located at the sites of viral outbreaks.

3. Preparing for Holiday Infections

  • If you want to make a meaningful Christmas gift to your residents, maintain a full and well-marked supply of ABHR in activity rooms, private resident rooms and facility entrances and exits.
  • Ensure your staff follow meticulous food hygiene rules. Regularly check the expiry date on the milk, and as well as all food brought to the facility by families.
  • Make sure the facility emergency medication is well stocked for empirical antimicrobial treatment. Ensure that clinical supply stock is sufficient for PPE, cleaning chemicals, etc.
  • Outbreak management plans, such as for gastroenteritis, influenza and COVID-19, must be up-to-date and easy to find.
  • Ensure that care and services plans that identify residents’ infections and any transmission-based precautions implemented by the staff are updated.
  • Ensure that a current list of notifiable infectious diseases that the organisation needs to report to government authorities is available for on-duty RNs. There should also be a list of contacts at relevant state or territory government departments (PHU).

4. Environmental Cleaning

Cleaning services that clean residents’ rooms are in that room for 15–20 minutes a day. For the other 23 hours and 40 minutes of the day, that clean, safe and disinfected environment has to be maintained by every person who enters the room and touches surfaces like bed rails, faucet handles, toilet flush handles, furniture, doorknobs, over-bed tables, etc. It is a good practice to refresh all staff knowledge about the importance of their role in preventing the transmission of dangerous organisms by maintaining clean surroundings in the residents’ rooms 24/7.

5. Hand Hygiene

The BEST staff members know that clean, sanitised hands or gloves are quickly contaminated by soiled surfaces they touch. All aged care workers should follow the correct hand hygiene 24/7. Test and refresh staff knowledge before and during the Christmas period where possible.

A good Christmas infection control and prevention plan should help your residents, families and all staff have a successful Christmas and a Happy New Year. Like Mariah Carey would sing….

“Oh I don’t want a lot for Christmas;
This is all I’m asking for;
I just want to see my baby
Standing right outside my door.
Oh I just want you for my own.
More than you could ever know;
Make my wish come true,
Baby
all I want for Christmas is… (a Healthy) You

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Prosperous 2021!