A practice she believes was fundamental to her role in aged care was seemingly being completely disregarded.
The staff were not even wearing gloves when they came into contact with bodily fluids, including faeces, and there was an attitude that getting your hands dirty is simply part of working in aged care.
The worried carer, a member of HelloCare’s Aged Care Worker Support Group on Facebook, reached out to fellow members of the group to find out what glove use was common practice.
Nearly 300 members of the support group commented on her post, with the overwhelming majority agreeing that wearing gloves is an essential part of delivering care, particularly if there is a possibility you will come into contact with bodily fluids such as faeces.
Yet, there were a small number who said they didn’t wear gloves, citing reasons such as sometimes time does not allow, a preference for skin-to-skin-contact, and allergies to the material gloves are made of (usually latex).
One commented that they don’t use gloves when they do their own personal care, so why would they use them for residents?
The issue seemed to strike a chord with HelloCare readers, so we decided to put the matter to the experts.
No ambiguity about glove use
Angelika Koplin, Principal Consultant of Aged Care Strategies and Support, said there should no longer be any “ambiguity” about when and how to wear gloves in residential aged care.
The current guidelines recommend that single-use, fit-for-purpose gloves are worn for:
Hands should be washed before and after all resident/patient contact, as well as prior to putting gloves on, and after gloves are removed.
Gloves are not a substitute for hand hygiene, explained Koplin.
Before engaging with a resident, aged care workers should assess if the task is likely to bring them into contact with bodily fluids, or if the task requires food hygiene guidelines to be followed.
If the assessment is yes, then the appropriately sized gloves should be worn.
Sean Rooney, CEO, Leading Age Services Australia, provided an example. If assisting a resident with eating their porridge, then there is no need to wear gloves. However, if buttering their toast, then a glove should be worn on the hand that is holding the toast.
“Gloves should be disposed of if they become split or broken. They must always be changed between residents and sometimes between procedures for the same resident,” said Rooney.
Failures to provide gloves a breach of standards
Failure to provide access to a range of different-sized gloves suitable for use by carers, cleaners and catering staff would make an aged care provider non-compliant with standard 8, the standard dealing with organisational governance, explained Vincent.
Rooney said providers will sometimes “monitor” glove use to ensure they are not being used “inappropriately or as a replacement for hand-washing”.
Vincent said the aged care providers he works with do not ration gloves.
Refer to policies and procedures
Every aged care facility’s infection control policies and procedures should contain an outline of how to use gloves appropriately. Staff should refer to these if in any doubt.
Aged care providers must also ensure their staff receive training and competency testing every year in Infection Control Principles, including in the importance of handwashing and the appropriate use of gloves.
All aged care homes should also have an infection prevention and control (IPC) lead on site, who should observe, assess and report on infection prevention and control, including the wearing of PPE, such as gloves. IPCs can also provide advice to staff and answer any questions they might have.
Rooney has some advice for the support group member who observed her colleagues not wearing gloves.
“It should be raised with the supervisor of that staff member if there is a persistent failure to wear gloves, or to wash hands between some procedures.”
Getting your hands dirty is not part of working in aged care, but wearing gloves must be.
Share your experiences with HelloCare. Have you observed staff not wearing gloves when they should be? Are gloves rationed at the aged care home where you work? Tell us below.