Early this year, there was a report about an elderly man who lived in a care facility and died of Legionnaire’s disease. Traces of legionella bacteria were found in his wash basin, wash cloth, toothbrush and other hygiene products meaning, he got infected going about his usual cleaning ritual which is certainly ironic. It’s always a sad story when elderly folks perish because of some disease instead of natural causes, but what’s even more heartbreaking about this particular report is that the man had to endure the awful pains created by the disease, and that happened while he was living in an assisted facility where he was supposed to be taken care of... again, the irony of it all.

Due to such report and other accounts of legionella contamination in senior facilities, care homes are strongly required to conduct regular legionella testing because they are just some of the most common origin points of the disease’s outbreak. With their temperature-adjustable water distribution systems (taps, showers, hydrotherapy pools, etc.), and special pieces of equipment that require warm/hot water (nebulizers, dehumidifiers, steamers, and others), the likelihood of the bacteria naturally occurring in these facilities is very high, making residents who are sick or already have weak bodies prone to exposure and complete infection.

Legionella testing in care homes and other social care facilities is really not that difficult to carry out since there are legionella water testing kits easily available for purchase. It’s just important that all hot and cold water systems are covered to ensure that the facility is completely free from the bacteria. If test results reveal that there are traces of legionella bacteria in the water systems, the best benefit here is appropriate measures can be taken promptly to address contamination. These may include switching to effective legionella-fighting cleaning agents, being more careful with temperature controls for water distribution and storage systems to prevent the occurrence of the bacteria as well as its quick proliferation, and even training facility personnel in routinely checking, inspecting and cleaning the system in accordance with the risk assessment. In case of positive findings, residents of the facility can be checked right away for infection which then can better ensure successful medical treatment.

Another thing worth mentioning is the benefit that the certification proving that the facility had undergone proper safety and maintenance efforts is a strong marketing strategy. Families of the elderly automatically gain assurance or peace of mind that their loved one will be completely safe living in such care home.

Written by: +Duncan Hollis