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Hospice Care is Vigilant About Preventing Infection

Infection prevention is critical in any healthcare setting, but particularly in hospice settings where infection can hasten and complicate the dying process. There are two upcoming days to take note of: October 15 through 21 is International Infection Prevention Week and October 15 is Global Handwashing Day. In honor of these two events, we want to stress how hospice care is vigilant about preventing infection in patients. This can stem from simple handwashing procedures to more detailed infection control procedures.


International Infection Prevention Week takes place the third week of October every year to raise awareness of the role infection prevention plays to improve patient safety, according to APIC. Every year there is a different theme, and this year’s is Antibiotic Resistance. Antibiotic resistance is when bacteria resist the effects of an antibiotic, mutating to reduce the effectiveness of drugs, chemicals, or other agents designed to cure or prevent infections, says the CDC. As a result, the bacteria survive and continue to multiply, causing additional harm. Thought of as one of the world’s most pressing public health concerns, antibiotic resistance can prolong suffering because they don’t work effectively on previously treatable illnesses. Then, this antibiotic-resistant bacteria can easily spread to family members, friends, class mates, and co-workers. Once bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, they can be hard to kill and even more costly to treat in the long run. Sometimes, the result is serious disability or death.

In the hospice setting, the decision to use antibiotics is complicated by the fact that there has already been a shift from curative care to symptom management. However, hospice patients are especially vulnerable to infection due to suppressed immune systems after going through chemotherapy, in the case of cancer, or as the result of diseases that may compromise resistance, according to the NCBI. There is still some debate as to whether or not to give antibiotics to patients in hospice care settings. A conversation with your loved one’s health care team will alleviate your concerns and gain you answers. Having a bedside patient advocate on your side can help you get the best treatment for your loved one in order to keep them comfortable as they battle their illness.

Infection Prevention Protocols

Every hospice care provider should follow a set of standards that are designed to protect the patient’s health. Infection control programs should be a part of the organization’s overall quality assessment and improvement approach to include:

  • Infection prevention and control risk assessment
  • Policies for hand washing hygiene
  • Policies for standard precautions
  • Policies for cleaning and disinfecting equipment and supplies
  • Patient and staff education about infection control

These policies should be in place whether the hospice care is taking place within the home or in a clinical setting. Home-based hospice presents its own challenges due to the uncontrolled home environment, increased use of in-home devices, visitors, and the complexity of illnesses among patients — all of which can lead to increased risk for infections, says NCBI. That’s why it’s critical to establish protocols and policies across the board to identify patients at high risk for infections and encourage communication between health care providers and families.

Tips to Prevent Infection

As a family member of a loved one, you are likely spending a lot of time together as hospice progresses. It’s essential that you know the ins and outs of infection control to keep your loved one safe, as well as everyone who comes to visit. Here are some tips to decrease your risk of infecting others:

  • Wash your hands: As we said earlier, October is Global Handwashing Day, which aims to increase awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective method of disease and infection prevention. Washing your hands is imperative once entering the hospice room from outdoors, after preparing food, and after visiting the rest room. Refrain from touching your eyes, nose and mouth so as not to introduce bacteria.
  • Get vaccinated. Immunization reduces the chance of contracting diseases, so make sure you’re up to date on your recommended vaccinations.
  • Stay home when sick: If you are not feeling well, stay home rather than visiting someone in hospice. While it’s not as imperative in the event of the sniffles, it’s especially critical if you have a fever, are vomiting, or have diarrhea.
  • Prepare food safely: If preparing food for your loved one, wash hands before and after, and wipe down prep areas with disinfectant wipes. Use a food thermometer to ensure meats are cooked through.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

For more information on how we are diligent about infection control in hospice care settings, please call us at 888-755-7855. Our hospice care providers are trained in proper infection control procedures, so you can rest assured your loved one is being taken care of to the best of their abilities.