Home Health & Hospice

Insider's Scoop | General Infection Control Principles at Home

Homecare Insider, September 14, 2015

Editor’s note: This week’s Insider’s Scoop was adapted from one of HCPro’s most popular home health titles from 2014, Home Health Infection Control: A Manual for Compliance and Quality, reviewed by Elizabeth I. Gonzalez, RN, BSN. The complete volume provides all of the information, forms, and tools that a home health agency needs to ensure it has an effective infection control program in full compliance with CMS’ Conditions of Participation for the industry—and to verify that staff are well-versed in the program’s key principles. For more information or to order, call customer service at 800-650-6787 or visit www.hcmarketplace.com
Infection control issues in the home pose special challenges. For this reason, it’s important for home health staff to educate each patient and family caregiver on ways to reduce infection.
Infection control in the home can be divided into four parts:
  • The environment
  • Personal hygiene and nutrition status
  • Treatments
  • Universal precautions
This excerpt from Home Health Infection Control: A Manual for Compliance and Quality offers practical strategies and educational focuses to call on when teaching patients and families how to tamp down infection risk related to the first item in the above list. For best practices on infection control in the remaining areas, purchase the full text.
Environmental infection control
Teach patients and caregivers how to keep their homes clean and less likely to become a breeding ground for infections by:
  • Wiping items that are used for meals or snacks, such as tray tables or trays attached to wheelchairs, with soap and water after each use.
  • Keeping eating and food preparation surfaces in the kitchen clean.
  • Avoiding the use of wooden cutting boards, especially for meats, because the cracks in the board harbor harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella and E. coli.
  • Wiping counters and cutting surfaces immediately after use with a bleach solution or commercial disinfectant.
  • Cleaning bathrooms regularly.
  • Washing vinyl or tile floors weekly with a commercial disinfectant.
  • Washing plastic trash containers weekly with soap and water, and then spraying the inside with a commer­cial disinfectant.
  • Cleaning medical equipment according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Laundering linens soiled with blood or body fluids separately.
  • Cleaning spills of blood or body fluids with a 10% bleach solution or a commercial equivalent. Wear util­ity gloves for these types of chores, and clean the gloves with soap and water when finished.
  • Bagging trash that contains soiled dressings or other potentially infectious material in a disposable leak­proof bag, double bagging it if the material is soiled considerably and is capable of leaking.
Be sure to include family caregivers in education sessions on these infection control measures, as these individuals must understand the proper actions to take and personal protective equipment to wear when providing care. For example, caregivers should wear disposable gloves when handling or coming into contact with the patient’s blood or body fluids; they should wear utility gloves when cleaning the bathrooms, cleaning up spills of blood or body fluids, and handling soiled linens.
Show family caregivers where you keep the sharps container in the patient’s home, demonstrating how they should dispose of a syringe and attached needle after assisting with or performing injections. Stress to these important agency allies that they should never fill the container beyond two-thirds. For patients that do not have a sharps container in the home, suggest that they or their caregivers get one or use an empty bleach bottle or coffee can with a lid to minimize the risk of needlestick contamination. Also consult local regulations for sharps disposal. Finally, remind all clients to keep the sharps container out of the reach of children, visually impaired or mentally compromised residents or visitors, and pets.