It’s the most magical time of the year! Winter brings Christmas, cosy nights, carols and… a lot of preparation for care homes! The winter months can be enjoyable for residents and staff as you make the most of the festivities. However, preparation is key to get your care home ready for winter. Here’s our advice for the coldest three months of the year.
Winter tip 1: Check your boiler
If you take away one piece of advice from this blog, let it be this. As we all know, the temperature plummets in winter, leaving us heavily reliant on our boilers to heat our homes. The risk of becoming severely ill increases during the colder months, with the Office for National Statistics estimating that there were 63,000 excess winter deaths in England and Wales during Winter 2021, with elderly people being particularly at risk. So, you’re going to want to ensure that your residents are nice and warm inside your care home.
Start carrying out basic checks on your boiler now to save an emergency. Of course, if your boiler does happen to break down during winter, there’s no need to panic as emergency callouts are available — but, getting any necessary repairs done in advance will save you time and money.
Winter tip 2: Create a contingency plan
A winter contingency plan is paramount to running a smooth operation during winter. The plan should account for any eventuality and ensure that you’re well-equipped for the winter months. It’s also important that you make sure all staff are aware of and understand the plan so that they can help execute it.
Winter tip 3: Have you got enough carers?
Start looking at your staffing levels and whether you’ve got enough carers to see you through winter. It’s important to remember that you’re probably going to need more staff than you would over the warmer seasons, mainly due to staff absence from sickness and annual leave requests being higher.
We know how difficult recruitment can be, so if you’re really struggling to find staff, it’s a good idea to start upskilling the care workers you do have to empower them to take on more responsibility.
Winter tip 4: Vaccinations and seasonal flu jabs
It’s likely that your residents and staff have already had their autumn covid-19 booster, but have they had their annual flu vaccination as well? Flu can be life-threatening to certain people, so it’s important that you make sure both care home staff and residents are up-to-date.
Winter tip 5: Plan activities
Unfortunately, ‘severe loneliness’ is twice as common in a care home than for those in wider society. Luckily, staff can play a vital role in combatting this, with 80% of care home residents with mental health issues saying they would feel less lonely if staff were able to spend more time with them.
The colder months are a great way to build stronger relationships between care home staff and residents, with lots of festive activities to get involved in. Planned fun and events don’t have to cost a significant amount of money or require a lot of preparation; they can be as simple as singing carols together, making paper snowflakes or arranging for a primary school class to come and visit.
Winter tip 6: Conduct a thorough health review
Autumn is a great time to undertake a health review of all your residents ahead of winter. As illnesses are more common during the colder months, it’s a good idea to understand the health of your residents now to make sure you’re well prepared.
Winter tip 7: Review your visitation policy
Visitation requests become more frequent around Christmas, so preparing for that now to make sure no one is disappointed is a great idea. There are some amazing online platforms for booking visits, such as Calendly, which can reduce extra admin pressure for your staff.
Winter tip 8: Stock up on the essentials
Alongside crucial aspects of your service, such as medications for residents, kitchen ingredients and more, there are also important factors in your care home environment that need to be addressed to promote safety in the colder months. By this, we primarily mean salt.
Salt is a godsend in the winter when the grounds and roads get icy, ensuring that vehicles can safely reach your care home and preventing visitors, staff and residents from falling over and hurting themselves. Check your salt supply now and if you’re low, stock up!
Winter tip 9: Infection Prevention and Control
As we’ve already covered, illnesses are more common during winter. Review your IPC policy and make any amendments you think might be necessary. It’s also worth remembering that, whilst COVID-19 seems to be much less severe now (even in vulnerable groups), you shouldn’t be complacent. Make sure you’ve got a watertight plan in case there is an outbreak in your care home.
Winter tip 10: Work with an independent care expert
Having an independent care consultant assess and review your care service can be a powerful tool in any care provider or care home manager’s arsenal. As care staff are often pressured in their duties, small details can sometimes be missed or looked over.
Through regular audits, a care consultant can bring a fresh set of eyes to a care home or care home group’s systems and processes which will ensure that any issues can be identified early.
If you need help preparing for winter in your care home, please get in touch.