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3 ways to control illness in your community

Posted by Kate Donnelly | Monday, November 30, 2015

3 ways to control illness in your community cooler seasons aren't just great for cozy beverages and warm blankets. As it turns out, the holiday season is also flu season - a less enjoyable but more significant holiday for any administrator of an assisted living community.

As both the temperatures and the precipitation drop, the instances of cold, flu and other seasonal illness go up. While these bugs can be nuisances to you and your staff, they may be deadly to some of your residents. If you want your residence to stay safe, comfortable and efficient year-round, you'll need to devise a strategy for controlling the spread of germs to keep illness to a minimum. But in a community comprising dozens of staff members and hundreds of residents, that can seem like a tall order. Here are a few tips to help you give germs the boot this season.

1. Focus on prevention

A residence filled with sick seniors and staff members is a managerial, logistical and medical nightmare. Rather than subject yourself and your employees to this situation, why not do your best to avoid it entirely? Neither the flu nor the common cold have effective cures, meaning that when people start getting sick, the best-case scenario involves weathering nasty symptoms for a few days.

Instead, focus on prevention. Flu shots are available every year, and you should strongly consider making these mandatory for your staff members, especially since seniors can be more susceptible to illness. Senior assisted living blog A Place For Mom noted that while vaccination is essential, your employee should take care not to get their shots too early in the season, as the vaccination can actually begin to wear off toward the end of winter if they do.

Of course, you should also encourage your residents to get vaccinated. While ultimately the decision is up to them - and their insurance provider - the benefits of getting a flu shot far outweigh the potential risks, which are typically very mild. On the flip side, the negative consequences can be significant.

2. Exterminate the germs

It's a simple equation: Without germs lingering around your community, illness can't spread. Unfortunately, you likely know that germs can be difficult to eradicate, and can pop up just about anywhere.

You may not be able to eliminate pathogens completely, but you can go a long way toward minimizing their presence in high-traffic areas. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a staple of the season, and you should invest liberally at your community. Place dispensers in common areas like dining rooms and recreation centers for residents, staff members and visitors alike. You can also encourage seniors and staff to carry portable bottles of hand sanitizer, which can be easily purchased at nearly any drug store. Just make sure that the solution is at least 60 percent alcohol. For anyone who can't get their hands on some of this seasonal substance, plain old soap and water work just as well.

3. Keep sick people out

The more traffic an area receives, the harder it is to control the spread of illness. In a retirement community, it's common for family members and other visitors to come and go.

It may seem unpleasant, but enforcing a "no sick people allowed" rule surrounding visitors may be necessary to help control this otherwise unknown quantity. It may cause concerns among your residents in the short term, but preventing a flu outbreak is definitely worth it in the long run.