Cleanliness is linked to care

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Leah Larson
Leah Larson

Choosing a senior living community for a loved one is highly emotional. For many, it is one of the most emotional decisions they will ever make. With 10,000 people turning 65 years old every day until the year 2029[i], exponentially more people will face this decision in the years ahead.

Ecolab Inc. recently commissioned a survey of 400 Americans involved in selecting senior living communities to determine how these decisions are made, the factors that influence these decisions, and the expectations for services and amenities.

Although we may intuitively know, the research confirmed that first impressions matter. When respondents were asked whether they agreed, “If a community isn't clean, it suggests to me that the staff might not take good care of the residents,” 93% agreed. Moreover, 96% ranked “cleanliness” as important or extremely important when choosing a senior living community.

With an estimated 70% of people who reach age 65 needing some form of long-term care service and support[ii], senior living communities will find it increasingly important to work alongside their business partners and vendors to learn about and develop solutions for the unique cleaning and sanitizing challenges, starting with residents' rooms.

Cleaning Residents' Rooms
Cleaning a resident's room is similar to cleaning a hotel room, but more challenging in that special consideration must be given to the presence of residents and their personal belongings. In addition, a focus on infection prevention is of higher importance due to potentially compromised immune systems.

When cleaning residents' rooms, it is important to remember four important rules:

1) Disinfect high-touch objects: It isn't enough to simply wipe down door handles, light switches or remotes. These objects are handled not only by residents, but often by their guests and your staff as well. To ensure you are providing a safe, caring, comfortable community for your residents, use hospital-grade disinfectants that clean and protect against norovirus and other pathogens.

2) Allow dwell time: To obtain the best results from your disinfectants, allow the product to sit on surfaces for the amount of time recommended on the label before wiping them down. Spraying and immediately wiping will not allow the disinfectant time to effectively kill illness-causing bacteria and viruses.

3) Clean high to low: When cleaning a resident room, it is important to start from the highest point and move downward, leaving the floors for last. This helps prevent previously cleaned areas from becoming dirty again.

4) Clean least to most dirty: Start with the least dirty areas such as mirrors and proceed through the resident's room to the dirtiest spots, such as toilets. In doing this, you can help prevent cross-contamination to reduce the spread of infection and meet the high expectations of your residents and their guests.

Safe Spaces Matter
Finally, while cleanliness may be a top priority for management and staff, it's impossible to see disinfection. So, talk with potential residents and their loved ones about the frequency of housekeeping services, and what protocols and training are in place to ensure your housekeepers maintain high standards for both cleaning and disinfection. Safe spaces matter — to your residents, staff and your brand's reputation.

[i] Pew Research Center,
[ii] 2014 Medicare & You, National Medicare Handbook, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, September 2013.

Leah Larson, director of Long Term Care Marketing for Ecolab's Institutional business, is responsible for understanding the customer and market, developing products and program innovation, and positioning Ecolab as a business partner and thought leader with customers in this industry. She can be reached at

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