Ask the Care Expert ... about space heaters in SNFs

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Sherrie Dornberger, RNC, CDONA, FACDONA, executive director, NADONA
Sherrie Dornberger, RNC, CDONA, FACDONA, executive director, NADONA

We have a family that insists on bringing in a space heater for their mom's room during the winter to “make her happy.” Are space heaters permitted in rooms in skilled facilities such as ours? (We have 120 beds, the building is new and the rooms are warm. But the family says she is always cold and wants to have this heater kept on for her 24/7 from November to April.) Please help — it is difficult for the staff to work around the heater.

First of all, does your facility or corporation have a policy against heaters? It's always good to look there first. The other place to check is in your state and federal regulations. 

Major accreditors for healthcare organizations largely do not permit them in patient care or treatment areas of healthcare occupancies.

Also, while the family sometimes thinks a hotter room is a better room, that is not always the case. Consider how a very hot room could cause
dehydration. 

Perhaps even if the rooms are all the same temperature in your best estimation, take temperature readings and offer this family and resident a different room to see if they feel it is warmer. 

Taking the temperature of the room several times a day without the heater for a week would also prove to the family that the room is consistently warm and comfortable.

A volunteer ombudsman also may help. Ask him or her to get involved, along with the facility's social worker. If the room is shared, you need to make all of the residents sharing the room warm, safe and happy. 

Remember: If one heater is permitted, you can expect more to be brought in, just like throw rugs and many other “like home” touches that can be added to a room, if allowed.

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