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13th July 2022

Latest update – Red Extreme heat warning – what it means for care provider (Last update: 15th July)

Temperatures of 40°C have been forecast in the UK for next week.

The Met Office has issued its first ever red warning for exceptional heat for Monday and Tuesday (18 and 19 July).

The hot spell is expected to affect a large part of England with temperatures likely in the high 30s°C in some places and possibly even reaching 40°C.

Areas affected include parts of central, northern, eastern and south-eastern England

A Level 4 UK Health Security Agency Heat Health Alert has been issued for Monday and Tuesday. This is used when a heatwave is so severe and/or prolonged that its effects extend outside the health and social care system. At this level, illness may occur among the fit and healthy, and not just in high-risk groups.

How QCS can help customers

Care providers will have access to the Heatwave Policy and your ‘Get your Care Home Ready for Summer’ resource, which is packed with tips and guidance that you can implement in your care setting now. It covers:

  • Heatwave Plan
  • Heatstroke Poster
  • Tips for improving hydration for residents
  • Managing annual leave and staff shortages

Be aware of heat-related illnesses

The main causes of illness and death during a heatwave are respiratory and cardiovascular diseases according to government guidance. There are specific heat-related illnesses to be aware of and include:

  • Heat cramps – caused by dehydration and loss of electrolytes, often following exercise
  • Heat rash – small, red, itchy papules
  • Heat exhaustion – is more common. It occurs because of water or sodium depletion, with non-specific features of malaise, vomiting and circulatory collapse, and is present when the body temperature is between 37°C and 40°C – left untreated, heat exhaustion may evolve into heatstroke
  • Heatstroke – can become a point of no return whereby the body’s thermoregulation mechanism fails and leads to a medical emergency, with symptoms of:
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Convulsions
  • Unconsciousness
  • Hot, dry skin
  • Core body temperature exceeding 40°C for between 45 minutes and 8 hours, which can result in cell death, organ failure, brain damage or death. Heatstroke can be either classical or exertional (for example, in athletes)

Keep the people in your care hydrated

We all need at least 6-8 glasses of fluid a day, but more when the weather is hot, so encourage those in your care to drink regularly.

Consider the following:

  • Always use positive language to encourage those in your care to drink rather than asking ‘would you like a drink?’
  • It is important that the drive to encourage residents to drink is not left to a particular member of staff. Involve all care home staff – activities coordinators, chefs and cooks – to promote awareness of good hydration for everyone
  • Any concerns about a resident’s drinking or risk of dehydration should be documented in their care plan, with clear instructions on any actions required
  • Don’t forget staff have to drink lots too

Tips for improving hydration in care homes

Research published in the Nursing Times ‘Effective hydration care for older people living in care homes’ highlighted some top tips that care workers could implement at work.

They include:

  • Offer more drinks more frequently, don’t just rely on those in your care to ask for drinks
  • Offer drinks throughout the day, including before breakfast
  • Avoid missing drinks rounds and excluding residents, everyone should be offered a drink
  • Promote the intake of fluids with medications
  • Offer a selection of drinks and ask residents for their preferences to make it more enjoyable. Record preferences too in their hydration plan
  • Encourage drinking in a social, pleasant environment so it is more enjoyable, and you can also theme social events too for example Mocktail Mondays
  • Improve continence support and access to toilets

Other useful tips include:

  • Placing drinks in a favourite mug or glass of choice
  • Drinking water or juices are not the only way to stay hydrated, consider using sweets like ‘Jelly Drops’ that are designed to boost hydration. Also, foods with a high fluid content such as cucumber, melon or soups
  • Drinks should be kept within easy reach of residents
  • Some fluids may be restricted for residents with certain conditions, always seek advice from a health professional to ensure any needs are met
  • Dehydration can also affect teeth and gums, so always promote good oral health. QCS Customers can learn more about good oral hygiene by reading the Oral Healthcare Factsheet in the Resource Centre

Useful reading

Download our Heatwave Toolkit for free here!

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*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

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