Earlier this week the Met Office recorded record-breaking temperatures in the UK – for the first time over 40C. As a result, it also issued a red alert “danger to health”. Heatwaves are incredibly dangerous and can cause serious health issues – including death.
Such temperature does not represent the normality for the UK, however, because of climate change scientists predict they will become more common and severe.
Although extreme heat is dangerous to all, there are certain groups of people who are most at risk. People over 65 or those with pre-existing health conditions are the most vulnerable. Care and nursing home residents are among these.
How extreme heat impacts people’s health? Studies in the US and UK have concluded that exposure to extreme heat has adverse health outcomes for human health. The leading cause of illness or death during heatwaves are cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and heatstroke. Other less severe heat-related illnesses are heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat rash and heat oedema. From premature births and low birthweight to increased risk of stillbirth, extreme heat can also have a detrimental effect in early life and during pregnancy according to a study published by The Lancet Countdown.
But what can health and care providers do to protect the health and wellbeing of the residents?
According to official guidelines, it’s important to provide the residents with multiple stations for hydration, while also doing the best to reduce heat indoors. It’s recommended not to plan any activities outdoor between 11 and 3 pm.
Here are other steps to mitigate the dangerous heat:
Check your facilities
- Prepare business continuity plans to cover the event of a heatwave (for example, storage of medicines, computer resilience, etc.)
- Create cool rooms or areas in your home
- Place thermometers in the rooms where your vulnerable resident spend time.
Check your residents
- Communicate the heat alerts to your staff and plan ahead
- Monitor your residents to check for dehydration
- Offer fun activities involving water and liquids
Activities during a heatwave
- Unilever Hydration Kit – Download the resource
- Hydration Station – Place a trolley in all the communal areas with the residents’ favourite drinks, jelly and fruits.
- Popsicles, Milkshakes and smoothies parties.
- Indoor gardening and mindful journals.
- Creative Writing sessions
- Indoor Musical
- Ice-cream making session
- Lollies Session
- Fruit bowls
- Easy homemade paper Fans
It’s also important to stay alert and follow Met Office advice. Often extreme heat and heatwaves can be forecasted days in advance. This allows care and nursing home staff to be proactive plan ahead.
For further information on how to support vulnerable people before and during a heatwave visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/heatwave-plan-for-england/supporting-vulnerable-people-before-and-during-a-heatwave-for-care-home-managers-and-staff