Cleaning Challenges in Aged Care Facilities
Australia has an ageing population. With the baby boomer generation entering into retirement and palliative care arrangements, demand for Aged Care services in Australia is set to explode over the coming decades. While efforts are being made to allow the greater provision of in-home care options to help shoulder this emerging need, sooner or later the bulk of this demand will fall to providers of traditional live-in aged care facilities which deliver access to around the clock support.
For Aged Care providers this growth represents both a blessing and a curse; increased demand will undoubtedly improve cash flow, but with all eyes on this booming industry and many players looking to capitalise, strong competition amongst providers means that it is more important than ever for facilities to run like clockwork, backed by efficient, reliable systems and services which enable them to scale with fluctuating resident levels whilst still adhering to razor-thin operating margins.
The cleaning of Aged Care facilities can often be brushed aside as an ancillary service that doesn’t directly contribute to the provision of resident care. However, it takes only the most casual brushing of the surface to reveal that much like a hospital, cleanliness is integral to the safe delivery of medical services. Furthermore, the way in which the cleaning is carried out can have a profound impact on a facility’s standards, efficiency, vibe and bottom line.
Yet for commercial cleaners, aged care facilities aren’t just another office in a different shaped building. There are a number of things that make the cleaning of aged care facilities truly unique.
Aged Care is one of the relatively few industries that not only favours but actually requires, all cleaning work to happen during daylight hours. While this may constitute atypical working hours for the average cleaner, the real challenge is created by the people present while the cleaning occurs.
A far greater level of attention and care is required on the cleaner’s part – not out of concern for prying eyes – but due to the increased risk of slips trips and falls. While most cleaners are accustomed to powering through the small hours on an autopilot setting of sorts, day cleaning in an aged care facility means navigating far more variable elements including residents, staff, visitors and any objects or equipment they use or interact with, within that environment. This calls for a far higher degree of awareness of not only personal movement but also the positioning of buckets, power cords and other cleaning equipment as work is undertaken.
Working around people
The other critical aspect of cleaning during the day which can’t be overstated is the extent to which cleaners become part of the facility’s day-to-day world. Residents will see their cleaner as often as they do many of the nurses or other aged care staff. In effect, this means the cleaner’s demeanour and ability to suitably interact with these residents and their visitors will ultimately contribute to the feeling and culture of the facility in much the same as if they were involved in the direct provision of care.
Cleaners working in an aged care environment also need to intelligently exercise tact and discretion out of respect for residents’ privacy, know when to alert others of a need for medical assistance, and be mindful to keep the things they encounter within the facility confidential.
Aged Care facilities are bound by their own highly prescriptive cleaning standards, and rightly so. There is no room for a margin of error in an environment where delicate immune systems are paired with the potential for rapid cross-contamination if standards aren’t adhered to strictly.
Few other industries are subject to both audits and unannounced visits to inspect their compliance to defined standards, with the facility’s accreditation and ability to continue accepting new residents on the line if a breach is found. In total, 12 of the 44 outcomes detailed in the Quality of Care Principles 2014 could come unravelled if a facility’s cleaning isn’t being conducted, coordinated and explained to the auditor, adequately.
… and the not so unique
Though it is hardly unique to aged care providers, it doesn’t seem right to compile a list of challenges without offering some acknowledgement of the tight budgets which are involved. More often than not aged care operators are given a rather thin line to dance in order to satisfy both their cleaning needs and ledger. Neglecting either side could seriously jeopardise the future viability of your facility, so it’s a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly.