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Hand Hygiene for Long Term Care Homes

Patrick Boshell
September 26, 2012
Hand Hygiene for Long Term Care

Health care associated infections (HAIs) can have a significant impact on the health of residents in long-term care facilities and their overall quality of life. 

A recent study at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Long-Term Care, in Toronto demonstrated the higher the hand hygiene compliance rate the low­er the norovirus attack rate - meaning fewer people with diarrhea or vomiting. Hand hygiene is universally accepted as the single most important way to prevent the spread of infections and outbreaks – while reducing the need for expensive, time consuming precautions. 


The Just Clean Your Hands program was created by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) to help hospitals overcome the barriers to proper hand hygiene and improve compliance. An ef­fective hand hygiene program can reduce the burden of illness and associated costs in long-term care homes.  To learn more please watch this under 5-minute eLearning presentation.


Transmission of Organisms


In an average day, caregivers and healthcare workers do a range of tasks with many residents and patients. Simple tasks like helping a resident become more comfortable in bed can result in thousands of microorganisms being transferred onto the hands of the caregiver. Without a proper hand hygiene protocol – those microorganisms can be easily transferred from one resident to another. 


Hand hygiene works and it works differently dependent on the method used. Alcohol based hand rubs with at least 70-90% alcohol, kills organisms in seconds and is the preferred method when hands are not visibly soiled. Additionally, soap and water with friction will remove these organisms and wash them down the drain. 


Four Moments of Hand Hygiene


In the resident’s environment, where care is taking place – the essen­tial indications of hand hygiene can be simplified into 4 moments: 


  1. BEFORE initial resident / resident environment contact
  2. BEFORE aseptic procedures
  3. AFTER body fluid exposure risk
  4. AFTER resident / resident environ­ment contact.

In long term care homes, residents gather for shared or group activi­ties, such as meal time and social activities. It is recommended that resi­dents, staff, volunteers and family members clean their hands before and after these group activities to re­duce the spread of micro organisms. 


So what’s the bottom line? Simply put, “Improving hand hygiene compliance saves lives.” In fact, an increase of hand hygiene ad­herence of only 20% can result in a 40% reduction in the rate of healthcare associated infections. 


The MOHLTC Just Clean Your Hands program contains all the nec­essary tools to help improve hand hygiene and compliance includ­ing a step-by-step implementation guide, training and education materials.

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