As the long-term care industry anticipates a return to “normal” in the coming year, many owners and operators find themselves with a growing list of priorities. 

Infection control and cleanliness likely will be redefined, and bath time already has had to be reimagined as a result of the pandemic. 

If the public health emergency has changed anything about conventional nursing home bath time, it’s that there’s been less of it.

“In many cases, the bathing process unfortunately turned toward sponge baths and in-room showers,” said Todd Binsfeld, chief growth officer for Apollo Corporation.

That created quite a splash with the union representing frontline staff at 69 nursing homes in Connecticut, which reportedly claimed its members were forced to choose between using hard-to-find personal protective equipment and properly bathing residents.

COVID has presented caregivers with a host of training issues as well, according to Sandy Habecker, project coordinator for Invacare. 

“During the pandemic, nearly every industry, including long-term care, struggled with maintaining staffing levels,” said Habecker, noting the extra time required to in-service new hires.

Critically for workers, being short-staffed has been associated with unsafe lifting and transfering techniques, and those are often needed as part of the bathing experience.

On another front, ultraviolet light is now finding its way into a variety of items in common bathing areas, according to Binsfeld. For example, Apollo is seeing a heightened interest in UV lighting sanitation and UVC germicidal products, he added.

“Most facilities put more strict cleaning protocols into place when it comes to disinfecting shower chairs between resident use,” Habecker added. 

“While infection control is always top of mind, facilities are taking a hard look at their practices to be sure they allot enough time between equipment use and the disinfection process to avoid the possibility of spreading sickness between residents.” 

Binsfeld advised SNF caregivers to lean on their suppliers for advice and remember that technologies like UVC should be considered as a means, or important layer of disinfection.