In regards to patient safety, the home care setting is a challenging work environment for home health and hospice caregivers. In addition to being exposed to household related hazards such as poor indoor air quality, lead paint, and potentially toxic cleaning substances, these already fragile patients are exposed to infections and disease. Caregivers are typically not going to be able to eliminate all household hazards; however there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of disease spread.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), unsanitary conditions are of great concern when it comes to preventing the spread of infectious disease in the home setting. Various procedures implemented by caregivers themselves could present a risk of infection. This includes the transfer of pathogens through direct and indirect contact with foods, pets, and inanimate household objects.
Where can Unsanitary Conditions Be Eliminated?
One area of particular concern in the home care setting is the bathroom. The NCBI states that simply flushing the toilet could encourage the spread of potentially dangerous microbes. Household laundry is another concern, as is the handling of foods and household appliances in the kitchen and throughout the home. Disinfection practices need addressing in the home care setting, according to the CDC. Specific CDC guidelines for infection control practices for home care have not been published, however the CDC does provide recommendations for infection control practices, highlighted below.
Infection Control Practices in Home Care and Hospice Care
Infection control starts with surveillance; in the home care setting this would rely on home care nurses to identify and report on patients who show clinical signs and symptoms of infection. An infection control nurse must take this information, review evidence, and screen the patient accordingly. Only then can a home care agency begin to work on prevention tactics. In many cases, home care nurses may be instructed to use gowns, gloves and masks when dealing with patients who are carrying an infection, however this does more to protect the caregiver than it does to protect other patients. Appropriate prevention methods include using barrier precautions; reusable equipment such as stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs should remain in the home of the infected patient. In addition -if possible- home care nurses should be instructed to care for their infected patients near the end of the day when they have seen all other patients.
What is the Future of Infection and Disease Control in Home Care?
The CDC notes that additional studies and reports are necessary to improve knowledge of the risk factors for infections and disease spread from one home care patient to another. The effects of current infection prevention practices must also be reviewed and studied; taking example from hospital-based infection control professionals.
At Manchester Specialty Programs, we have multiple avenues available to us to secure the appropriate liability coverage for home health care providers, personal care services, Visiting Nurse Associations (VNAs), hospices, and medical staffing firms. We understand that losses are often inevitable in this industry, and take more than just a standard policy; we also offer tools and strategies through our carriers for these industry segments to help gain control over ongoing costs and rising premiums.