While for much of the world, our enhanced focus on preventing the spread of illness indoors is a relatively new one, infection control has always been critical to senior care operations. Long before the pandemic, pathogenic threats like norovirus, VRE and MRSA have been ongoing challenges that required vigilant disinfection protocols across senior care facilities.
The onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic brought about a particularly unprecedented challenge for the industry, as adults over the age of 60 were identified as the population most vulnerable to the disease – which is most easily spread through congregate facilities. As of April 2021, approximately 32% of U.S. deaths related to COVID-19 occurred in long-term care facilities. In eight states, at least half of COVID-19 deaths have occurred among nursing home, skilled nursing and assisted living residents and staff.
And yet, COVID-19 isn’t the only threat to older adults. While the mental and emotional health effects are only beginning to be understood, one study by the Global Health Research and Policy journal, found that “the outbreak of COVID-19 will have a long-term and profound impact on older adults’ health and well-being.” With “social isolation and loneliness likely to be one of the most affected health outcomes.”
Ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us we must raise the bar for how we ensure human health and safety in indoor environments. Now, more than ever, senior care communities need access to the tools and technologies enabling this higher standard of safety.
New Technologies Enabling Sustainably Safer Senior Care Environments
One of the most common methods of disinfecting is the manual use of chemicals – spray on, wipe off. However, this method is time consuming, largely ineffective and nearly impossible to verify. Studies have shown that manual disinfection in hospitals regularly misses up to 51% of high-touch surfaces. With many problem pathogens in senior care environments transmitted via surfaces (like C.diff), that’s a percentage risk we can’t afford.
New methods for applying chemicals may only exacerbate health risks. It’s not just those misusing chemicals or directly interacting with them who are at risk. A recent study found that chemical disinfectants can linger in the air for 20 minutes after application, which means people who use spaces undergoing frequent disinfection might also suffer health consequences. From lingering toxic fumes to chronic respiratory illness, heavy chemical disinfection can create additional health risks in senior living environments.
Fortunately, there are new, safer technologies offering more effective and efficient solutions for enhanced disinfection. Long considered the gold standard for preventing the spread of infection in hospitals, UV-C is a proven disinfection technology ideal for the senior care environment. R-Zero’s hospital-grade UV disinfection system, Arc, is proven to destroy 99.99% of surface and airborne pathogens in a 500 sq ft space in just 3 minutes – without the use of chemicals. Arc’s sustainable UV technology provides a critical layer of added protection across all areas of a senior living campus – including dining halls, activity spaces, lounges and resident rooms. An eco-friendly disinfection solution, UV-C is also safe to use in food prep areas, like kitchens.
“We use Arc throughout our common areas including offices, restrooms, our clinic, kitchen and salon, daily,” said Philippe de L’Arbre, Operations Director of Heritage House in Santa Barbara, CA. “Arc’s UV cycles are quick and run in each resident apartment on a weekly basis. It’s easy to use, so multiple teams are able to operate the unit regularly, including our housekeepers, caregivers and kitchen staff.”
Rebuilding Resident and Employee Peace of Mind
The devastating impact of COVID-19 on the senior care industry is not just seen in the lives lost, but in the fear and social isolation it has brought to many senior residents. Today, R-Zero’s UV technology is not only supporting senior care communities in creating physically safer spaces, it’s also increasing trust and confidence for those that live and work in these spaces. Built-in LTE connectivity allows Arc to share usage data in real time, providing facilities teams with an auditable trail of disinfection activity – for the first time. For senior care teams across the country, this visibility into a previously invisible process plays a key role in rebuilding trust.
For Heritage House, knowing Arc destroys any potentially remaining virus and bacteria particles after a space is cleaned, provides an invaluable level of security.
“Implementing this technology shows our commitment to safety of our residents, and provides an additional layer of peace of mind for the families who have trusted us with caring for their loved ones,” says de L’Arbre.
As we begin to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, sustainable disinfection technologies — like UV-C — are helping establish a new standard of care for both residents and employees. Facilities that implement UV-C as part of enhanced infection prevention measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, will continue to reduce incidences of other infectious diseases common in the senior care environment (such as MRSA, C. diff and norovirus), long-term.
To learn more about how UV-C can be incorporated into health and safety procedures at your facility, see R-Zero’s disinfection guide for senior care.
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