Nursing homes play a crucial role in providing care and support to vulnerable populations. However, these facilities are often susceptible to infectious diseases such as norovirus due to close living quarters and the fact that residents are at higher risk of exposure. To safeguard the health and well-being of residents, it is essential to establish robust visitor policies that minimize the risk of norovirus transmission. 

This article explores various visitor policies that assisted living and long-term care facilities can implement to effectively prevent and manage norovirus outbreaks in senior care facilities.

  1. Screening and education

The first line of defense against norovirus transmission is to implement comprehensive screening and education protocols for visitors. Facilities can develop a screening questionnaire to assess visitors for symptoms or recent exposure to norovirus. Additionally, providing educational materials, such as brochures or posters about norovirus prevention and proper hand hygiene, can raise awareness among visitors.

  1. Temporary restrictive visitation policies

During outbreaks or heightened risk periods, nursing homes may need to restrict visitations temporarily. This can help minimize the introduction of norovirus into the facility and reduce the risk of transmission. Clear communication channels should be established to inform visitors about visitation restrictions, with regular updates provided as the situation evolves.

  1. Hand hygiene promotion

Hand hygiene is crucial in preventing norovirus transmission. Nursing homes should have easily accessible hand hygiene stations at entrances, in common areas, and in visitor waiting areas. Visitors should be encouraged to clean their hands thoroughly with soap and water or hand sanitizers upon entry and exit. Signage and reminders from staff can reinforce the importance of hand hygiene practices.

  1. Visitor health checks

In addition to screening visitors for symptoms, facilities can consider implementing temperature checks to identify individuals with a fever or other signs of illness. Visitors with symptoms or recent exposure to norovirus should be advised to postpone their visit until they are no longer contagious.

  1. Limiting visitor numbers

To minimize the risk of norovirus transmission, it may be necessary to limit the number of visitors allowed at a given time. This can prevent overcrowding and reduce the chances of close contact between visitors and residents. Implementing a visitor appointment system or designated visiting hours can help manage visitor flow effectively.

  1. Enhanced cleaning and disinfection

Nursing homes should implement stringent cleaning and disinfection protocols, especially for high-touch surfaces in busy areas such as visitor waiting areas, restrooms and common spaces. Establish regular cleaning schedules, and use high-quality disinfectants known to be effective against norovirus.

Maintaining a clean and germ-free environment is essential for promoting health and preventing the spread of infectious diseases. However, many conventional cleaning chemicals contain harsh ingredients that can pose health risks to both humans and the environment. In recent years, electrolyzed water has emerged as a safe and effective alternative for killing germs without the associated health dangers. 

Electrolyzed water (e-water) offers a safe and effective alternative to conventional cleaning and disinfecting chemicals, providing powerful germ-killing properties without the associated health risks. E-water generators require just salt, water and electricity to produce two multi-purpose, effective and ready-to-use solutions; a hypochlorous acid disinfectant and a sodium hydroxide cleaner and degreaser.

The solutions’ non-toxic nature, coupled with their effectiveness on a wide variety of surfaces and against a broad range of pathogens, makes e-water an ideal choice for maintaining clean and healthy environments in various settings. Electrolyzed water technology represents a significant step forward in promoting sustainable and safe cleaning practices that protect both human health and the environment.

Norovirus outbreaks in nursing homes can have severe consequences for vulnerable residents. By implementing and enforcing visitor policies that focus on screening, education, hand hygiene, visitor health checks, visitor number limitations, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection, facilities can minimize the risk of norovirus transmission. Providers must collaborate with healthcare professionals, visitors and staff to create a safe environment that prioritizes the well-being of residents and effectively prevents norovirus outbreaks.

Joshua Schwartz is the President and a Co-Founder of Viking Pure Solutions, a sustainable cleaning innovation company that is changing the way facilities clean and disinfect with all-natural, on-demand solutions that are better for people and the environment. With a career spanning diverse industries such as medical real estate, healthcare, finance, and supportive housing, Joshua has made it his mission to identify societal needs and develop innovative solutions that are cost-effective and beneficial to those involved.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.

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