Winter is a busy and worrying time for healthcare organisations, with the cold weather bringing with it an increase in people getting illnesses such as flu.
It’s important to prepare early for this time of year, making sure that you’ve got a plan in place for cold weather, have stocked up on all the items you’ll need, and that everyone is vaccinated against common illnesses.
Read on below to get our tips on preparing for the winter illness period, including a shopping list of the items you should stock up on.
From September onwards, the temperature begins to drop and the chance of catching a winter illness starts to increase. Having a plan in place to get your care home ready for winter is essential, as prevention is the best form of attack for winter illness.
The government’s Cold Weather Plan document is full of advice on getting ready for winter. It includes a range of simple suggestions, from providing regular warm meals and drinks and keeping ‘at risk’ residents indoors on very cold days, to stocking up on the medicines you might need.
Your cold weather plan should also include making sure that heating systems are working as they should, and that all boilers are serviced before the weather starts to get colder. Using thermometers in day rooms and bedrooms is also a good idea to make sure that the temperature is at least 18°C at all times.
In addition to this, you should consider what plans will be put in place in the event of heavy snow causing problems with transport. Stock up on grit and shovels to clear driveways, and make sure you’ve got extra cover on hand in case a member of staff is struggling to travel in.
Your cold weather plan should be put in place as soon as possible, and you should ensure that all staff members are informed about it and understand what’s required of them.
Flu jabs are particularly advisable for vulnerable individuals, including:
In a care home setting, all the above are likely to be relevant, so it is very important that both residents and staff are properly vaccinated ahead of the winter illness period. Requesting for staff to be vaccinated and being aware of their health is vital to avoid illness being passed on to vulnerable residents.
The most common airborne respiratory infection found in care homes is flu. Although not a pleasant experience for anyone, for those who are older and dealing with health problems, complications from flu can be life-threatening, especially if those infected have heart or breathing problems.
Flu prevention plans will help to keep the rate of illness low in your care home, helping your residents – whose immune defences may have become weaker with age – to stay as healthy as possible.
Extra precautions and good health habits include residents and staff washing and sanitising their hands regularly, and covering their mouths when sneezing or coughing. It is also advisable to focus on a healthy and balanced diet for residents, as well as regular movement and exercise where possible, to prevent winter illness. Residents who have caught an illness should be kept away from healthy residents until they have recovered.
To avoid running out of things just when you need them, be sure to stock up on the essentials. As well as the usual food, drinks and medicines, you should make sure that you order:
For more advice on preventing the spread of infection in your care home, take a look at our recent post on Managing Infection Control in Care Homes. You should also keep an eye out for International Infection Prevention Week (IIPW), which takes place on 15-21 October.