Pneumonia in Nursing Homes: Staff and Visitors Need to Wear N95 Respirators

“Respiratory tract infections are the leading cause of death due to infectious disease in the elderly.The presence of underlying disease states such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other organ system disease further increases the likelihood of developing severe pneumonia in the elderly population, and the frail elderly, particularly when institutionalized in chronic care facilities, are at high risk for developing severe and recurrent pneumonia,” said Keith C. Meyer∗.

The elderly are especially susceptible to pneumonia, and in nursing homes, where people of all ages tend to congregate, this risk is heightened. If you’re planning on visiting a loved one at their nursing home or if you’re a resident of the nursing home, then there are steps you can take to stay safe from the bacteria and viruses that can cause pneumonia.

What Is An N95 Mask And Why Do I Need One

N95 masks are the most common respiratory protection equipment used in hospitals and nursing homes to prevent the spread of diseases. However, if you plan on wearing one for more than three hours, you’ll want to consider whether your safety could be compromised by wearing it for too long. Read on to learn more about how long you can wear an N95 mask in a nursing home and how to address some of the challenges that may arise from this exposure time limit.

When Should I Worry About Hospital Pneumonia

Hospitals are a breeding ground for diseases and sicknesses, including pneumonia. Hospital staff works hard to keep their patients safe from such illnesses, but some people in nursing homes may not get such careful attention. If you’re worried about infection in your home health care center, ask your doctor how long you can safely wear an N95 mask. Using one at all times is probably overkill unless there’s a known risk for airborne diseases.

Most of the elderly in nursing homes have lung pneumonia or tuberculosis, so nurses and doctors working in nursing homes and family and friends visiting nursing homes should wear N95 masks to protect themselves from lung disease.

What Do The Experts Say About Hospital Infections

Experts suggest wearing a mask for at least 6 hours when visiting someone in a long-term care facility. However, many facilities have adopted policies that call for 24/7 masks. Visitors are sometimes asked to wear them before entering a unit, and many facilities have even gone so far as to require that all visitors are masked at all times while on site. In addition, some nursing homes will ask residents and family members to wear masks while they’re in transit between units or floors.

Lower Your Risk of Pneumonia
“You are more likely to get pneumonia if you smoke or have underlying medical conditions, like diabetes or heart disease. However, you can lower your chances by taking good care of your medical problems, and quitting smoking”,according to CDC.

COVID-19 Guidance for Nursing Home and Long-Term Care Facility Workers From OSHA

OSHA is committed to protecting the health and safety of America’s workers and workplaces during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are the guide from OSHA:

  • “Instruct sick workers to stay home.
  • Screen workers and residents regularly for signs and symptoms
  • consistent with COVID-19.Quarantine workers and residents if they have been exposed to an individual with COVID-19.
  • Follow CDC guidance on resident visitation policies.
  • Ask visitors to inform the facility if they develop a fever or symptoms consistent with COVID-19 within 14 days of their visit.
  •  Implement physical distancing practices to maintain at least six feet between workers/residents/visitors, including while workers perform their duties and during breaks. 
  • break periods to avoid crowding in breakrooms.
  • Use alternatives to large in-person gatherings (e.g., staff meetings, resident activities).
  • Have a qualified ventilation professional evaluate the building’s HVAC system.
  • Provide handwashing facilities and alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent ethanol or 70% isopropanol throughout the facility.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces in resident rooms, staff work stations, and common areas.
  • Use hospital-grade cleaning chemicals.
  • Ensure workers have and use any personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to perform their jobs safely.
  • Continually monitor the facility’s stock of PPE, burn rate, and supply chains. Develop a process for cleaning and decontaminating PPE, such as face shields and goggles, as appropriate.
  • Train workers on COVID-19 policies and procedures in a language they understand.
  • Ensure policies encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns.”

Stay Protected When You Are Around Others That Are Sick

Many nursing homes and hospitals require healthcare professionals to wear an NIOSH approved  N95 mask when they’re caring for patients with flu-like symptoms. These masks should not be worn for more than 4 hours at a time, but even if you don’t have direct contact with sick people, you can still get sick.

Disinfect Everything After Use

When you’re finished wearing your N95 masks , make sure to disinfect it with bleach or another strong disinfectant before you use it again. This is to help avoid spreading any germs that might be lingering on your mask to a resident who doesn’t have as much immunity. You may also want to change out of your uniform and cleanse yourself after wearing an N95 respirator for a long period of time. This can help lower your risk of infection even further.

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