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Australia has an aging 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 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
The cleaning of aged care facilities can often be brushed aside
as an ancillary service which 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 which make the cleaning of aged care
facilities truly unique.
Aged care is one of relatively few industries which 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.
The unique challenges of
aged care cleaning
There are few places where cleaning and hygiene
practices are more important than in an aged care
facility. With elderly residents who are far more
susceptible to infection than the general population,
there is no room for error when it comes to maintaining
standards, says Cleanworks Australia co-founder and
CEO Kelly Broderick.
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 feeling and culture of the facility in much
the same as if they were involved in the direction 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.
Sub: Industry-specific regulations
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,
... 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 which shouldn’t
be taken lightly.
This first appeared on Cleanworks’ Australia’s blog and has
been republished with permission.
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