It’s an event that every care home manager has to be vigilant about and has to face at least once a year: a heatwave. Whilst we don’t want to complain about warmer weather, a heatwave can pose serious risks to your residents and therefore ensuring that your staff are well equipped to deal with one is paramount. Here’s our advice for promoting resident safety during a heatwave.
The risks of a heatwave
Heatwaves can be dangerous to anyone, regardless of age or location. With this said, there are increasing risks for the elderly with the NHS reporting that, during a heatwave in August 2003, ‘the biggest increase in risk of death was among those in care homes’.
The risks during a heatwave include:
- Cardiovascular illness
- Heat cramps
- Heat rashes
There are more general good practices for dealing with warmer weather, that will need to be in place throughout the whole of the Summer period at your home. However, there are also more acute systems that your staff will need to be aware of in case of a heatwave, which will help to ensure that those under your care stay safe.
Tip 1: Prepare in advance
The best time to prepare for a heatwave is before it happens. We advise that as we approach summer you start assessing how you’re going to provide a constant, fresh air supply for your residents, with shaded and cool areas within your home. This will mean that if a heatwave does occur, you’ll be well equipped in advance.
Tip 2: Have the right facilities to deal with a heatwave
Should a heatwave occur, the correct facilities are going to be imperative in ensuring that your residents are happy and healthy. This includes:
- Fans and water sprays
- Water and ice: To ensure that residents have access to hydration
- A range of cold drinks: Providing a variety of beverages will encourage your residents to stay hydrated with their preferred tastes
- Cold meals: If the weather is particularly hot, it’s likely that residents will prefer cool food over warm food, which will promote nutrition
Tip 3: Arrange your staffing
During a heatwave, having enough staff on duty to help care for your residents is going to be especially important. This can be made increasingly difficult as, over the Summer, it’s likely that you’re going to have more holiday requests than usual. We recommend managing holiday requests over warmer seasonal periods with this in mind to ensure that you always have enough staff available to deal with an emergency, as relying on agency staff will create additional, expensive costs.
Tip 4: Make sure staff understand care plans
A good care plan is at the heart of any care home and this is especially true during extreme circumstances. Make your carers aware of which residents are most at risk, making sure that those individuals are being considered with their individual needs.
Ensure that residents who spend majority of their time in bed or in their rooms during the are constantly monitored to ensure that they are comfortable and hydrated as required by their care plans.
If you get advanced warning of a potential heatwave, it’s also a good idea to ask the GP for any possible changes in treatment ahead of time, meaning that, should a heatwave arise, you’re already well equipped for any eventuality.