A good understanding of the microorganisms that are encountered regularly is intrinsic for a better practice of infection control. Pathogenic organisms are disease causing microorganisms that are classified as: Bacteria, Viruses, Pathogenic, Protozoa, Parasites, and Prions. A distinguishing feature from other diseases is that infections can be spread. In various health care facilities, infection control is the process of preventing microorganism from spreading from; patient to patient, member of staff to patient, or patient to a member of staff. Infections can be spread in a number of modes that include direct contact, indirect contact, fomite, hands, inhalation, ingestion, and inoculation. It is important therefore that infections are prevented and controlled by all healthcare givers, including staff working at nursing and residential homes for the elderly for the general health and wellness of the care giver and the patient, and in turn, the nation in general (“Essex Health Protection Team” 2013).
The major need for infection control to be practiced by care givers perhaps comes in majorly because a number of the infections have the ability to spread in the conditions and environments where the people that are vulnerable, for example the elderly persons, share living accommodation and eating. It is crucial that care givers have the awareness to promptly identify the possibilities of the infections spreading and swiftly act on them. Essex Health Protection Team (2013) indicate that every microorganism require a means to spread, and it varies from one microorganism to another. They note that playing a major role in the spread of infections is the hands. Microorganisms may exist in secretions and excretions of the body and if the hands come into contact with these microorganisms, unless they are decontaminated properly, can carry the infection from one person to another. Microorganisms like viruses that are responsible for influenza and colds that are found in sputum, saliva and secretion, may also spread through the air. This happens through coughing or sneezing close to other people will spread them among other means. Observing hand hygiene among other standard precautions can be problematic in nursing homes for the elderly because of the memory conditions and problems that majority of the elderly people have and the general attitude of carelessness.
Vulnerability to microorganisms can differ from one person to another and factors that increase the risk of infection entail hygiene, psychological well-being, physical well-being, immune status, underlying or chronic diseases or medical conditions, and age where the very young and very old are most vulnerable to acquiring the infectious diseases. A factor that contributes to vulnerability is the fact that majority of the care facilities, like the nursing home for the elderly, many elderly people are cared for in confined spaces. This implies that there is presence of numerous microorganisms and the chances of either the elderly people or the care givers being infected are relatively higher. Huge amounts of waste that is contaminated with body substances and blood are handled and processed in health care settings thus there are increased chances of infection if proper care is not observed. The poor hygiene behavior when coupled to the high vulnerability due to their old age, the elderly people in nursing homes are bound to be infected by different microorganisms regularly and therefore it is very important that care givers put in place standard procedures and precautions to prevent and control infections, especially in nursing homes.
The care givers, apart from the danger of them acquiring the infections from the nursing homes, pose a greater danger of them potentially spreading the infections not only from one elderly person to another but also to the general public outside of the nursing homes and residential homes for the elderly. Most at risk of this situation are the family members and other person living in the same household as the care givers. Therefore to protect other people, outside of the nursing homes, it is very important that care givers strictly follow the laid out procedures for the control of infections. Furthermore, the National Audit Office (2000) reported that, at any given time, approximately 9 percent of patients have an infection that they acquired at the hospital. Some of the patients end up dying every year as a consequence of the infections acquired from hospitals. These infections that are acquired in hospitals are becoming harder to treat compared to other infections. The hospital acquired infections is costing the government more than one billion pounds every year. The same can be extended to nursing homes and residential homes for the elderly. Therefore, infection control helps prevent the spread of resistant microorganisms, prevents unnecessary deaths, and saves the government a significant amount of funds for the government.
Infection control is important in health care settings for many reasons. For the specific case of nursing and residential homes for the elderly is mainly important because of the factors that increase vulnerability of these elderly people. The nursing homes are usually congested, there is sharing of accommodation and eating, handling of huge amounts of waste that contains blood and other body fluids, indicating a higher risk of contact whether direct or indirect with the microorganisms. This then implies that there are unnecessary infections within the nursing homes and hence the government spends more resources in treating the infections. In some scenarios, the infections lead to lose of lives. It is therefore important to control infections in order to avoid its spreading, unnecessary costs and unnecessary deaths in general.
- Department of Health. 2013. Prevention and Control of Infection in Care Homes – an
Information resource. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/214929/Care-home-resource-18-February-2013.pdf
- Essex Health Protection Team. 2013. Infection Control Guidelines: Care Homes. PHE
Publications. Retrieved from http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/infection_control_guidelines_for_care_homes.pdf
- National Audit Office. 2000. The Management and Control of Hospital Acquired
Infection in Acute NHS Trusts in England. London. The Stationary Office. Retrieved from https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2000/02/9900230.pdf