The correct laundering of retirement and elderly care home residents' clothing is paramount to ensure no contamination is spread through the textiles.
In long-term care facilities for the elderly, it is important to be able to provide personalised, individual care for residents and to create a homely atmosphere. Two important aspects of this are for residents to have some personal belongings in the care facility, and be able to wear their own clothes.
However, residents need to be protected from contamination by bacteria which can be transmitted via textiles. While the processing of staff clothing of residential homes is regulated to protect the wearer against communicable diseases, there is no such regulation for residents and their own clothes.
Elderly people living in a retirement or care home can be exposed to the risk of infection transmitted through their clothes. The need to protect them from any such contamination can be addressed through the laundering not only of the flat linen, such as bed sheets, but also of the residents' own clothing.
There is a danger of contamination to residents' clothing. Although staff clothing in care homes is regulated in some markets to protect the wearer from communicable diseases, there is no such regulation for the residents' own clothing. This is why residents' clothing should either be outsourced to a commercial laundry, or industrial type washing machines should be installed.
When the Commission for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention in Germany (KRINKO) addressed this gap in 2005, there was no data available on how bacteria are transmitted through residents' clothing. However, further studies have concluded that pathogens (e.g. those created by resident's own secretions, excretions or incontinence) can be spread among residents via contaminated clothing, and that this should be prevented as far as possible.
In the same way that care home bed linen is put through a disinfectant washing process, clothes belonging to residents suffering from an infection must also undergo a similar process. For other, non-infectious residents, washing can be done as at home.
Textile services companies can ensure the hygiene of flat linen from care homes, such as bed sheets and bath towels, as well as the hygiene of residents' clothes. Two quality management systems are used in industrial laundering that provide this assurance of hygiene. They are the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) hygiene requirements and the Risk Analysis and Bio-Contamination Control (RABC) system, which is based on the European standard EN 14065.
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