Jill Young, operations director at Vida Healthcare, discusses the initiatives that are in place across the three specialist dementia care homes to keep residents cool and comfortable during a heatwave…
Hot weather can present significant challenges for older and more vulnerable people, particularly those living with dementia. Dehydration and heatstroke are real concerns that must be taken into account.
At Vida we have a permanent plan in place should a heatwave, like the one due to occur next week, take place to make sure our residents are kept cool, hydrated, happy and healthy. We’ve already started implementing a range of initiatives which will be kept in place until the weather cools down.
Dehydration is a particular cause for concern, as some of our residents may forget to keep hydrated. No matter the weather, each one of our residents has a hydration and fluid care plan and chart so that staff can monitor their hydration levels. This ensures we can keep a close eye on residents who might not be drinking enough.
During hot weather, we also introduce extra fluid measures. Our chefs make jelly sweets that contain 20ml of water per sweet – our residents love them and it can be a straightforward way of giving them a little extra fluid. Our freezers are kept stocked with ice creams and ice lollies for both staff and residents which are available at all times, and our residents also have access to jugs of juice and water in their rooms and the communal areas.
We’re very lucky that all three of our homes have access to secure outdoor spaces with shaded areas that our residents can enjoy. If a resident is keen to go outside, our staff will make sure they’re wearing a hat and suncream, and will encourage them to sit in the shade to keep safe from the sun.
In terms of our care homes, we have destination areas with air conditioning to keep staff and residents cool, and we keep windows open to increase the flow of fresh air into the building.
Fans are also available to every resident, however we have strict infection control measures in place and will clean each fan thoroughly to reduce the risk of residents contracting an infection. Residents are also given increased opportunities to have showers and baths to keep them cool and comfortable.
It’s not only the residents’ surroundings that play an important role in keeping them safe from the heat. We have emergency menus on standby that reduce the amount of hot food being cooked and served and instead focuses instead on cold and lighter foods, such as salads. This also plays an important role in keeping our chefs cool in the kitchen.