Today, nursing home residents make up less than one percent of the total U.S. population. While this percentage may seem negligible, the issue with Infection Control is that it fails to ensure the safety and security of America's senior citizens as Covid-19 has killed slightly over 136,000 nursing residents. Although Covid-19 has increased the concern for infection control, the inability to slow down deaths and infections has been an ongoing issue for many years. The four common infections that nursing homes experienced across the country have been Urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, skin and soft tissue infections, gastroenteritis, and influenza.
Infection Control in Nursing Homes
So why is Infection Control failing its efforts to decrease infections in nursing homes? Simply stated, the essential sanitary environment is lacking its proper upkeep. On average, only 42% of nursing home equipment is properly sanitized. This positions senior residents at a majority risk of getting infected by their neighbor's infection(s).To make matters worse, less than half of nursing homes have alcohol-based hand rubs outside their room while a quarter of residents have access to their rooms on average. Not to mention, senior residents have a weaker immune system than most. This gives residents an additional disadvantage to keep their immunity strong throughout their day-to-day life.
However, these are only a few of the outward signs of why infection control is not effective in their services. Nursing homes across the country are significantly understaffed and it has only been getting worse over the last few years. Since 2020, 15% (236,000) of total nursing home staff have left their jobs due to a plethora of uncomfortable workplace circumstances. As a result of overworked employees, the majority of nurses said they feel stressed, frustrated, exhausted, overwhelmed, and undervalued as their wages did not increase for the additional hours they worked.
Not only did nursing staff not receive any compensation increases for the extra hours they've put in, but approximately 3/4 were not given personal protective equipment to keep themselves or their senior residents safe. Hence, this is another reason why over half of the nursing staff felt undervalued. It is only a matter of time before nursing home staff can settle for less before something gives.
Unfortunately, things have given in as the entire nursing home industry has been shrinking due to the increasing amount of infections and deaths in nursing homes, significantly understaffed and burned-out nurses, and lack of sanitary protection for all people in nursing residences. This is why nursing homes' average operating margins are -4.8% a year. But this is just the beginning stages as 400 certified US nursing homes are projected to be completely out of business. The primary reason why more nursing homes are expected to be out of business is that 86% of them are already understaffed. This positions these nursing homes to burden the nursing assistants that work more than full time which causes the infection rate to increase since overworked staff naturally become less diligent in maintaining a healthy living environment.
Nursing Home's Solution
However, there is potential to reverse the declining trend in nursing home facilities which would make them cleaner and boost U.S senior residence confidence. IPC Well is an infection-prevention organization that helps other facilities prevent bacterial and other infectious diseases spread in vulnerable workplace environments. They do this by offering nursing facilities hands-on training to properly upkeep their facilities, take care of sick patients, resources to maintain a healthy environment, and general upkeep that maintains higher standards than infection control by the CDC.
While it is difficult to bring back residence confidence in nursing home facilities, the current and potential senior residents who witness a significantly lower infection rate, plentiful staff that can take care of their needs promptly, and a wealth of sanitary and health resources will have more assurance that they will be taken care of. This will not only save the nursing home industry, but it will also help companies like IPC Well, which provide in-person training for nursing home staff.
As of now, senior citizens that are considering retiring in a nursing residence should be cautious and consider other options if possible (given their circumstances). Until companies like IPC well train enough nursing home staff and show real results that make it safe for people to live in, they can expect to have peace of mind that they are being well taken care of.