Despite parts of the UK experiencing some unusually warm weather for the start of October, autumn is well and truly here. As with each of the four seasons, autumn brings with it its own seasonal jobs that need doing to keep everything ticking over. It also brings its own safety challenges that must be handled correctly to keep staff and residents safe while moving about the home.
Here are some of the areas that will need particular attention from care home managers and staff in the autumnal weeks ahead.
Safer gardens and grounds
Autumn leaves can cause a slip hazard when left on the ground, especially after it has been raining. They can become very wet, making it harder for people to walk on them without slipping over. Keep an eye on falling or blowing leaves and clear them away from walkways and areas where residents (or staff) could slip over on them and suffer an injury. The same goes for fallen nuts, berries and anything else that could turn into a trip or fall hazard underfoot.
We tend to associate bad weather with winter, but autumn can also have its difficulties in that regard. Watch the weather forecast carefully and try to avoid arranging trips or outdoor activities on windy or very rainy days. ‘Mists and mellow fruitfulness’ may have delighted John Keats, but reduced visibility from fog or mist can seriously impact on older and vulnerable people’s ability to stay safe outdoors. Watch out, too, for late afternoons and early evenings, when the sun is much lower in the sky, once again impeding visibility. Bear in mind that especially cold snaps can produce other hazards, such as black ice that can catch both residents and staff unawares.
Guttering and other outdoor jobs
Keeping residents safe and sound during the autumn goes further than finding and removing slip and trip hazards. Keeping the gutters clear of fallen leaves and wrapping pipes to stop them from freezing over can help keep the water running properly. This is essential for your residents’ hygiene, hydration and overall comfort. Always take care when working at height, making sure that ladders are properly secured and that suitable maintenance equipment and protective gear is provided.
Let there be light
Autumn is the ideal time of year to check that all lights are working inside and outside the care home. Replace broken bulbs and fix faulty fittings to ensure that there is plenty of light for people to see where they are going. It could also be a good idea to add lights in places where trips or accidents could be more prevalent. Examples include by stairs and raised entrances, in the car park and lining paths and walkways around the grounds.
Clothing and bedding
Autumn is a time when the temperatures start to get colder, so make sure that your residents have got access to enough warm clothes and bedding. October is a great month to help people switch form their summer wardrobe to heavier autumn and winter clothing. You can also change over from light, summer bedding to warmer winter alternatives. One good approach to this is to provide people with lots of layers that they can put on or take off, according to the temperature and their personal preferences.
Fire safety: cooking and candles
Despite the hotter temperatures and longer sunlight hours of summer no longer featuring quite so highly in daily life, fire safety procedures must still be adhered to and regularly revised in the colder months. Lower temperatures often mean an increase in the need to cook hot meals and snacks. Watch out for fire hazards, such as unattended stove tops and pans and candles, lit to create a pleasing atmosphere, but adding to the risk of a fire starting inside the care home. If you have working fireplaces and plan to light real fires during the colder months, have the chimneys swept now to keep everyone safe throughout the autumn and winter.
Insulation and ventilation
This is also the ideal time to audit your care home’s insulation and ventilation, Effective insulation is key to help keep in the heat and stop your fuel bills from rising unnecessarily. Check for drafts around windows and doors too. Safe, effective ventilation is also hugely important, especially when care homes start to turn on the central heating more often. Schedule your annual boiler check and service too, if you haven’t already done so, and include other gas appliances like ovens and heaters.