June has already seen several very hot days, with blazing sunshine and temperatures rising up to the early 30s. This can cause problems for all sorts of people who find it harder to stay comfortable in the summer. However, for care home residents, seasonal heat can be particularly difficult to cope with. Some of the conditions that can be caused or exacerbated by excess heat include heat cramps, sunstroke, increased risk of cardiovascular problems, heat rash, oedema and exhaustion.
Here are some areas to pay particular attention to as we head into July, August and the height of summer.
This is an obvious one, but the cooler you can keep your residents, the better they will be able to cope with summer heat waves. Make sure that everyone has access to lighter, loose summer clothes and keep on top of the laundry so people can wear fresh garments each day. The body uses sweating and evaporation as effective ways to cool down the body, so tight clothing may restrict this and cause overheating. Keep fans on, or install air conditioning so that residents – and staff – can sit or work in cooler temperatures. It may also be cooler to keep windows shut and curtains closed on especially hot days so that the heat from outside doesn’t come indoors.
Prepare the home
This may be something to look at for next summer, but there are several things you can do to help keep your care home cooler during the hotter months. Switch darker curtains and metal blinds to lighter coloured fabrics with reflective linings. Ensure that all windows can open and close correctly. Add more shade to the garden and grounds, such as gazeboes, sun shades and additional trees or leafy shrubs. Cavity insulation not only helps keep the heat in during the winter, but it keeps it out in the summer! Look into what grants are available from your local authority to help you financially with this. Install indoor thermometers and stock up on fans, water sprays and ice machines.
Hay fever and related concerns
Many people suffer from hay fever during the summer, when pollen counts rise and we spend more time outdoors in amongst the flora and fauna. Make sure that you know which of your residents need to receive additional hay fever medication – use your eMAR to record what they are taking, and any side-effects to watch out for. Likewise, watch for increased effects of asthma and other respiratory conditions in the summer, as the hotter temperatures and hazy days may make it harder for some people to breathe.
Residents at risk
As well as hay fever and respiratory conditions, vulnerable residents can also become at risk during hotter days in other ways. Monitor residents for pulse rate, body temperatures, blood pressure, food and drink intake etc (Care Vision has its own in-built fluid monitoring tool). Check their medical records for any conditions that are particularly worsened during hotter temperatures. Consider prescribing oral rehydration salts for any residents who you think could be especially prone to dehydration or who are taking diuretics.
Look after your staff
Working in a physically demanding jobs like care can be really tough when it is very hot. Make sure your staff can have access to cold drinks, cool places to sit during breaks and additional help when it is required. Staff rota planning on your digital care management system will help with that, as will the procurement sections to ensure that you have enough ice, water, cold drinks, fans etc. to help your teams stay cool. Watch out for signs of heat exhaustion and other health concerns among your staff. Have emergency procedures in place for if staff feel ill or are unable to come in due to the heat.
Discourage residents for going outside at the height of the day’s heat, between 11am and 3pm. Encourage regular cold drinks and include plenty of water-based dishes in your meal planning, such as fruit salads and sorbets. Help residents who find it harder to sleep at night by bringing fans to their rooms, assisting them with looser night wear and running a cold bath if they want them. Provide residents with damp cloths to place on the back of their necks or wrists to keep cool during the day.