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WASHINGTON, D.C. — To commemorate National Nursing Home Week (May 11-17), the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) is issuing five steps every resident and their family can take to become their own advocate and reduce the risk of developing an infection during a facility stay.
1. Infection Prevention and Control Program
Ask the long-term care facility (LTCF)/nursing home about their infection prevention and control program. Talk with the assigned infection prevention and control professional (ICP). Discuss the strategies in place in the facility for infection prevention.
2. Hand Hygiene
Germs may be present on a resident, visitor and/or staff and also on many surfaces in healthcare facilities including bed rails, over-bed tables, wheelchairs, walkers, faucets and even the TV remote control. Residents, visitors and staff can carry these germs on their hands. Proper hand hygiene is essential. Hand hygiene means washing hands with soap and water for 15 seconds to 20 seconds or using a 60 percent alcohol hand sanitizer. It is not impolite to insist that anyone who is giving care or touching a resident practice hand hygiene. This includes doctors, nurses, nursing assistants and visitors. In caring for residents with memory loss, it is important to remember that everyone needs to help with resident hand hygiene.
If antibiotics are being given, ask the reason antibiotics were prescribed. Once prescribed, the full course of medication should be taken as directed. Don’t insist on antibiotics if the doctor doesn’t advise them because overuse can lead to resistance and other problems.
4. Urinary Catheters
Sometimes urinary catheters are necessary; however they can significantly increase the risk of infection. Urinary catheters should be removed as soon as they have fulfilled the need for placement. Ask about the need for a catheter. If you are a family member and help to give care to the resident, talk to the ICP about what you should do to prevent an infection.
It is very important to have up-to-date immunizations. On admission to a nursing home, a resident should be asked about their immunization status and offered any immunizations they need. This includes the Pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine if not already done before admission and the influenza vaccine. Family and visitors should also make sure they receive the flu vaccine during flu season to minimize the risk of transmission to residents. Ask the facility about the influenza program for nursing home staff.