The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has re-issued guidance for domiciliary (homecare) care managers to help support people they care for during cold weather.
Living in a cold home can increase the risk of illness or death for a vulnerable person. They are at a higher risk of ‘heart attack, breathing problems, flu, depression and falls,’ says NICE.
It stresses that care staff need to understand ‘the individual’s needs, how and when they use heating, how much time is spent at home and any conditions that might be worsened by the cold or their ability to use their heating.’
NICE adds that it is not just solely extreme winter weather, domiciliary care workers also need to look out for more moderate conditions, when the temperature outside drops below 6°C.
What is a hard-to-heat home?
Any house can be hard to heat if the cost of heating it to a comfortable and safe temperature is more than the resident can afford. However, houses with the following are the most difficult to keep warm in cold weather:
- Broken or draughty windows and doors
- Reliance on more traditional heating methods (for example, storage heaters)
- Lack of loft space and homes that are part of high-rise blocks
Making every contact count
NICE says care staff should not assume that another professional is managing a vulnerable person’s heating needs and instead see each visit as an opportunity to act:
- At least annually, assess whether a person is vulnerable to the cold
- Identify what local support is available to make improvements in a hard-to-heat home (for example, heating repair services and building insulation providers) and help the person to access them
- Give information to vulnerable people about the risks to health of living in a cold home
- Challenge misconceptions (for example, ‘sleeping in a cold room is good for you’)
- Be aware that people may try to hide difficulties in paying for heating (for example, only putting heating on when expecting a visitor)
- Consider the needs and views of other people in the household
Managers can take some simple steps to help care workers by having a plan that includes:
- Contact details for reporting any concerns to a local authority or useful agencies that provide help if there any heating or water supply or housing conditions
- A useful list of useful local support that can be shared with the person they are supporting such as charities or home improvement services
- A training plan for care staff that identifies how they can recognise anyone at risk and how to document and share those concerns
Download the full guide: Helping to prevent winter deaths and illnesses associated with cold homes