Winter’s coming. Not only the Starks know it (pardon the GOT reference), but the UK government does as well. Its new Adult Social Care Winter Plan aims to support care homes and prevent infection throughout a potential spike in COVID-19 cases during the upcoming cold months through a £500 million plan for social care to reduce coronavirus transmission. By now, we know that 44% of COVID-19 related deaths in the country have been linked to care home residents per data provided by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
With such alarming data, the conversation on the table should be how to make care homes a safer place for our senior citizens during a season where we’re exposed to Coronavirus and other aggressive viral infections, all while tending for a need of human connection. Here’s a few pointers we believe care homes should consider:
- Proper supply of personal protection equipment: In fact, the UK’s new adult social care winter plan will distribute free PPE to people receiving adult social care and care workers.
- Periodic testing: Asymptomatic health workers may be bringing the disease in without knowing, which can be fatal for residents and other employees. Testing regularly may help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, a commitment made by the UK’s government back in April. To access testing kits for residents and staff of care homes please visit their website. Moreover, the new adult social care winter plan asks all care providers to stop all but essential movement between care homes to prevent the spread of infection.
- Stricter hygiene protocols: Certain rules should be followed such as staff washing their hands before and after touching a resident, performing an aseptic procedure and body fluid exposure as the World Health Organization suggests. Other recommendations include keeping an organized space free from non-essential items and equipment to facilitate an effective and constant cleaning system with a fresh solution of general purpose neutral detergent in warm water (1,000ppm available chlorine should be used regularly on sanitary fittings). In addition, linen management is crucial: it should be stored in a clean, designated area, preferably enclosed, and ensure a laundry receptacle is available to the point of use for immediate disposal. Also, be wary of blood and other body fluid spills as they may transmit other viruses, the same happens with trash, therefore set in place a safe waste disposal strategy.
- Improve social connections: A recent TIME article found that depression has skyrocketed during the COVId-19 pandemic. Social isolation has been proven to be one of its main factors. It’s imperative for care home residents to be in contact with their loved ones to prevent any feelings of loneliness and other negative feelings. The Adult Social Care Winter Plan also announced tighter visitor restrictions, which is why the UK government plans to distribute 11,000 free iPads to care homes to support social connection during these times.
- Proper ventilation: During colder months, we’re prone to shut windows affecting adequate air flow, imperative to lessen the risk of infection. According to a Nature investigation: “Covering lines of evidence indicate that SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, can pass from person to person in tiny droplets called aerosols that waft through the air and accumulate over time.” Which is why we believe that homes like these will benefit from investing in a good air sanitiser like Gino offering an extra layer of protection for staff and residents. Its power to destroy 99.999% of airborne viruses including coronavirus, bacteria and mold in a single air pass can be a solution to this drawback during chilly weather.
Naturally, care homes are at a higher risk of infections due to rotating staff, coliving arrangements and elderly citizens with underlying health conditions. And as much as we now know that without a vaccine, COVID-19 cases will continue to appear, we must find short-term solutions to prevent the death of the most vulnerable. Let’s share valuable information, not COVID-19.