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Care Homes and Covid-19 – the questions you should ask

14 August 2020

The Covid-19 crisis has put the control of infection at the top of everyone’s agenda. This is particularly true when it comes to care homes.

“While it is impossible for care homes to say that they are 100% safe, it is important to realise that well-managed care homes actually provide a number of benefits over care at home,” says Graeme Kelly, the Director of Cramond Residence. “At home, vulnerable people can be exposed to significant infection risks from visitors to their home potentially bringing in infections from workplaces, supermarkets and shops, which do not benefit from professional infection prevention procedures.”

“At home it is also much less easy to implement strict infection prevention protocols,’ Graeme adds. “At Cramond we offer a combination of professional infection control and prevention procedures with high quality, effective building design which reduces the risk of vulnerable people being exposed to infection.”

With Graeme’s words in mind, it is clear that, if you are thinking of a care home for you or a loved one, you need to be certain that everything possible has been done to keep residents safe and healthy. Here are five questions to ask to ensure that this is the case:

What steps are taken to ensure that staff do not pass on infections? 

During an infection crisis, the care home should clearly demonstrate its adherence to professional infection prevention and control procedures, correct use of PPE and adherence to distancing protocols. Staff should work in dedicated teams to avoid cross-contamination and should isolate if they become infected. All uniforms and protective equipment should be washed and disinfected in line with government guidelines, with staff uniforms and shoes never leaving the care home to stop contamination. Staff should be recruited and trained so that they have the expertise to comply with these measures.

What steps are in place to ensure that residents don’t get sick?

During an infection crisis, the care home should clearly demonstrate its adherence to all government advice on infection prevention, testing and keeping residents safely apart from each other. Information should be available on cleaning regimens, medical check-ups and tests and on how residents are helped to keep hygienically clean and infection free. Visits from friends and family should be carefully controlled so that social distancing and PPE protocols can be put in place. Options such as video link-ups should be in place to allow regular, safe contact.

How is the building designed to limit the spread of infection?

One of the problems with the design of many care homes is the large size of communal spaces, such as lounges and dining rooms. When residents gather together in these spaces, it can be difficult to stop the spread of infection. If the care home has been designed with infection control in mind, then it should be possible to keep residents in smaller groups, physically separated from each other and using dedicated living and dining rooms. En-suite shower rooms also make this easier – removing the need for residents to share bathing and toilet facilities. Your care home should be able to tell you whether they have the capability to restrict the interaction of residents if this is necessary. Ask whether the care home has the in-house laundry facilities to do all its own cleaning. Also ask about heating and ventilation systems – are these designed to remove infectious air from residents’ rooms?

How is the care home managed to limit the spread of infection?

Having the correct procedures and plans in place is very important to the successful control of all types of infections, so every care home should be able to give you details of how they manage their operations in this way. Meetings of management and staff should be held regularly to ensure that the care home keeps fully up-to-date with government guidelines and that it responds effectively to any new challenges. Residents and their families and friends should be updated regularly on developments.

What emergency plans do you have in place?

If any residents in a care home do fall ill to an infection such as Covid-19, then the care home should have robust plans in place to quickly isolate, test and treat them in a way that not only serves their best interests, but also protects the rest of the care home’s residents and staff. Good communication is vital, particularly to alert any friends or relatives about any necessary changes to visiting procedures.