Cleaning is no longer a task hidden in the background, writes Natasha Egan.
If there’s one positive thing to come out of COVID-19, it is the elevation of the cleaning crew, says John Taylor.
Aged care cleaners have always been important, but the difference now is that everyone recognises that, says Taylor, innovation and business development at CleaniQ and aged care cleaning veteran.
“The cleaner has never been so appreciated and now finally gets the recognition they deserve and the resources they should always have had,” Taylor tells Australian Ageing Agenda.
He says residents are appreciating the cleaners more and so are care workers, which is positive for the workforce.
“The people in the facilities are acknowledging the cleaning staff and understanding that they’re doing as difficult a task as what the care worker is, and as vital, if not more. The care workers are now taking an interest in the cleaning side of it,” he says.
“Where there was a divide between your care worker and cleaner, all of a sudden the care workers is now appreciating cleaners. So there’s an elevation in the status of the person that’s working there.”
Taylor says he closely watched the lack of resources and training the cleaners were getting when the pandemic first hit aged care homes.
“So all of a sudden cleaning is vital. Yes, we’ve got to do this, but we’re not too sure what to do. I think that was the biggest problem to start with.”
He says the beginning was also marred by misinformation, contradictory information, a shortage of supplies including personal protective equipment and the incorrect use of PPE.
“You had instances in some of these aged care places where there was definitely infections going on, and they were putting people in disposable aprons for God’s sake, and not using full suits. It was just not good enough,” Taylor says.
“The whole PPE set up was just wrong. They just didn’t know. It was good for a flu outbreak, but not for this. This was this was next level up.”
Tips for cleaners
Nowadays, supplies are good and affordable for most items, says Taylor.
“Gloves are still highly inflated. Face masks are back where there should be. Coveralls and overalls are still up a little bit, but it’s not that bad because they only really need to be used if there’s an outbreak.”
However, the aged care sector should not let its guard down, Taylor says.
“Complacency is our biggest problem now,” he says. “I bet you’re not using your hand sanitiser as much as you did two months ago. You’re not washing your hands as much as you did two months ago.”
He’s also concerned there is still a big knowledge gap in best practice cleaning for residential aged care. Cleaners need to go to the next level, says Taylor.
“Normally, you just do a normal clean, well extend that so that you’re doing a touch point clean and you’re doing more of a deeper enhanced clean constantly. And it’s just to keep the bloody thing out.”
He advises aged care cleaners and facility managers to remember to:
- clean and then sanitise as a two-step measure
- use the procedures for an infectious control clean, such as if there was a flu bug going around through, all the time, but not necessarily with all the PPE
- increase the amount of cleaning
- clean touchpoints regularly.
Residual disinfectant shows promise
Taylor says there are a number of new products and measures in the works and that more new and effective products will likely come onto the market in the next couple of months.
“There’s a thing out there at the moment called a residual disinfectant, which if you put it onto a surface, it can handle up to 200 touches, or seven days, and if the bug was to hit it, it kills the bug straightaway,” he says.
They are already fogging trains every two weeks in England using residual disinfectant, Taylor says.
“I think that residual disinfection will be extremely high and we will be able to give people 14 days protection on any hard surface by using residual disinfect. Disinfecting doesn’t hurt anyone.
“You can imagine in aged care you’ve got those over the bed type tables. You could have the residual disinfectant on those so that anything that touched it would die, and that would be protected for 14 days.”
Taylor’s final advice to aged care cleaners is to remain positive and keep their chins up.
“You are a vital part of the crew,” he says.
Cleaning used to be done behind closed doors and no one wanted to know about it. But it is not hidden away now, Taylor says.
“The positive note of this is that people are glad to see the cleaner.”
This article appears in the current edition of Australian Ageing Agenda magazine (Nov-Dec).