How UV-C Can Benefit Senior Care Facilities

How UV-C Can Benefit Senior Care Facilities

Challenges for Senior Care Providers

Over the past two years, senior care facilities have struggled with difficult challenges and hard-fought battles. They’ve endured challenges to their reputations and their credibility at the deepest level. But why has this particular segment of the healthcare industry received so much attention? The most apparent reason lies with the very clientele served by this industry. 

Seniors are among the most vulnerable members of our society. Many of our elderly suffer from weakened immune systems as a result of chronic illness that is endemic to growing older. Ailments such as upper respiratory conditions, cancer, heart issues, heart and blood problems, and more become more profound as the years pass. When something like the flu or other viral illness appears, our elderly are the most likely to suffer the most severe consequences. 

As a result of lessons learned over the past 24 months, many senior care centers have developed new protocols designed to improve the well-being of both the residents and the staff at these valuable facilities. The CDC recently produced a guide that recommends a layered strategy to reduce exposure to airborne germs and viruses. As part of an overall program for keeping indoor communal spaces safe for occupancy, the guide refers to cleaning, disinfecting, and ventilation as primary steps in the process. For senior care facilities, these steps are exceptionally important.  

Senior Care Best Practices for Indoor Spaces

When developing a new protocol, focusing on specific strategies provides the most effective means to better results. For example, management should prioritize regular cleaning and disinfection in high-traffic areas or areas where large numbers of people regularly gather. If an area lacks good ventilation, making it a priority is a good choice as well. 

Cleaning with soap or detergent on surfaces lays the foundation for a healthier indoor environment, but against certain viruses, it isn’t enough. A disinfection process eliminates more germs and viruses than simple soap and water can. However, the use of harsh chemicals requires a thoughtful approach in the senior care environment. Elderly residents with upper respiratory issues can react negatively to strong chemicals. Highly sensitive senior skin reacts badly when coming into contact with dangerous chemicals. Developing a common-sense protocol with an awareness of the needs of residents reduces the risk of unfavorable outcomes.

Incorporating UV-C Disinfection

A safe method of helping to disinfect the indoor environment of care centers that fits within cleaning protocols is the use of UV-C light. The history of UV-C light disinfection dates back more than 100 years to 1877 when Dr. Arthur Downes and Mr. Thomas P. Blunt demonstrated the impact of sunlight on bacteria. They prepared several glass test tubes with Pasteur’s solution. Some of the test tubes remained indoors while others were placed in sunlight. The test tubes exposed to sunlight remained free of bacteria and the growth of microorganisms inside the tube for several months. This led to scientists experimenting with ultraviolet light in a variety of areas.

Ultraviolet (UV) light – specifically UV-C light (100-290nm), refers to the region of the electromagnetic spectrum between visible light and X-rays, with a wavelength falling between 400 and 10 nanometers. It is not visible to the human eye because it has a shorter wavelength and higher frequency than the light our brain perceives as images. UV-C light is extremely harmful to human skin and eyes, but Earth’s atmosphere absorbs this light keeping people, animals, and other lifeforms safe.

Because UV-C light doesn’t penetrate our atmosphere, microorganisms have no natural immunity to it. The UV-C light penetrates the nucleus of the cells, disrupting the DNA and interfering with their ability to reproduce genetic copies.  UV-C light kills microorganisms by destroying the nucleic acids in their cells.  This destruction, in turn, inactivates the organism and prevents it from replicating. 

In 1903, Dr. Niels Ryberg Finsen used UV-C light to treat diseases; specifically, lupus vulgaris. As a result of his findings and success, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine that year. In 1909, UV-C irradiation helped with water purification in France. In 1914, a town in Tennessee became the first to use UV-C water treatment in the U.S.

By the 1930s, doctors and clinics used UV-C light to treat patients in tuberculosis clinics.  In 1956, a Johns Hopkins researcher and expert on lung physiology named Richard L. Riley and his mentor, William F. Wells theorized that tuberculosis spread not only through human-to-human contact but also through airborne transmission. Utilizing air-tight chambers connected to a tuberculosis ward at the Baltimore VA hospital, they created two test chambers. In one chamber, they exposed 150 guinea pigs to infected air from the TB ward. A second test group of 150 guinea pigs received the same exposure, but the air ducts connected to their chamber were irradiated with UV-C lamps. 

The test was conducted over four years and provided significant results. In the first group, an average of three guinea pigs per month contracted TB, while none of the animals in the second group became infected. Though this particular experiment was developed to prove airborne transmission, it also provided efficacy for UV-C disinfection practices. These disinfection qualities of UV-C irradiation are the power source behind R-Zero’s UV disinfection devices.

How UV-C Disinfection Benefits Senior Care Facilities

Upper room UV germicidal irradiation (UVGI) has long been used to aid ventilation as well as disinfection in a variety of indoor environments. A device like R-Zero’s Beam mounts near the ceiling where the UV light creates a disinfection zone. As air follows a regular flow through the room due to HVAC, fans, or open windows, the airborne particles move into the disinfection zone. The UVGI inactivates the DNA and RNA in the cell nuclei which renders the organism unable to replicate.

Upper room UVGI is best suited to areas indoors that represent higher risk such as locations with a higher concentration of people, such as hospital or doctor waiting rooms, school nurse’s offices, or public clinics. Areas that also tend to be crowded, such as lobbies, shelters, or public venues where lines form also pose a higher risk of microorganisms that pose a threat. Cafeterias, restaurants, or company break rooms can also be a greater risk because of the concentration of people. Because of its placement near the ceiling, the UV-C light poses minimal danger to people or animals, so it can operate safely during times of human occupancy. This means the device can easily incorporate into daily routines.

Senior care facilities need cost-effective, unobtrusive methods for providing thorough disinfection in their buildings. Though chemical disinfection is costly and has a negative impact on the environment, when applied as part of a well-developed part of a cleaning and disinfecting protocol, it plays a vital role in creating safer spaces for residents and employees. In addition to the efficacious use of chemical cleaners and disinfectants, whole room UV-C can provide an increased level of disinfection. Whole-room UV-C disinfects nonporous surfaces such as countertops, desktops, walls, and non-carpeted floors (linoleum, concrete, tile, etc.), as well as disinfects the air. 

R-Zero’s flagship product, Arc, Is an easy-to-use, portable disinfection device designed as a whole-room option. Efficacy studies show that Arc can disinfect a 1,000 square foot room in just seven minutes with 99.9% effectiveness (Third-party testing of SARS-CoV-2, feline calicivirus, MRSA, and E. Coli on hard, non-porous surface in seven minutes, samples taken at eight feet.) Because of the dangers posed by 256nm of UV-C light, Arc features 360o sensors to instantly shut down the device if movement that might be human is detected. 

Identifying Your Senior Care Facility Needs

Determining the needs of your facility and developing protocols that meet the demands of your residents and their families can be a challenging tightrope to walk. Finding the proper balance for your staff, your facilities crew, your residents, and their families is a difficult, but critical, task. Our customer success team addresses your concerns, answers your questions, and makes certain that you have all the information you need to make the correct decisions for your organization. 

Let us help you customize a disinfection protocol tailor-made for your organization. Contact us and speak to a UV-C specialist who can provide you with critical information about getting the most from UV-C disinfection.

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