How to do it... Summer safety and security

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1. First, identify your highest risk residents for heat stroke and sunburn and other risks. 

“Cognitively impaired people are at higher risk of dehydration as they lack the ability to regulate thirst and lose their ability to consume adequate fluids,” says Lisa Logan, enteral program manager and nutrition support clinician for McKesson Medical-Surgical Extended Care.

A proactive check of your facility's wander management system is in order before summer arrives, says Laurence Yudkovitch, senior living product manager at RF Technologies.

“Being lost in the heat of a noon-day sun without water or sunscreen can be life-threatening,” he says, adding that a gated patio or terrace can be a great way to offer residents the ability to spend time outside at minimal risk. 

2. Nothing can escalate as quickly as dehydration, which Logan says can cascade into a host of issues such as pressure ulcers, constipation, urinary tract infections, falls and medication toxicities.  

Yudkovitch suggests setting up outdoor juice bars “as a fun activity.” Restore electrolytes such as sodium and potassium, and make routine checks of vital signs, mucous membranes and urine output, Logan adds.

3. One of the most obvious recommendations still often overlooked: Watch for changes in behavior. 

“Monitoring residents' mobility could give warning of stress related to heat exhaustion,” says Steve Elder, senior marketing manager at STANLEY Healthcare. “If a resident suddenly becomes sedentary and stops leaving their room, it could be a sign that something is amiss.” 

Logan says untreated heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, and worse, delirium and coma. Look for inflammatory pathologic events like headache, malaise and nausea. 

4. Be sure to expand your monitoring sphere. 

“In the summer months, residents are more likely to go outdoors and they should have coverage,” advises Robert Venditti, product manager for Philips Home Monitoring. 

Janice Oldmeadow, senior living field marketing manager for Philips Home Monitoring, recommends mobile monitors that allow residents to call for help. Elder adds, “residents can make their own decisions about how much exposure to sun or heat they should have, while still having the means to call for help if needed.”

5. Schedule facility activities during cooler periods. 

“Activities such as gardening or walking should be scheduled in the morning or later afternoon, avoiding peak sun in the middle of the day,” cautions Yudkovitch, who advises a wander management system that can be configured to allow residents free access outdoors during specific times. Don't forget to provide plenty of shady respites in your facility's courtyard or outdoors areas.

6. Warmer months can make the indoors just as hazardous, so take extra care to keep temperatures cool. “In a real heat wave, elevated indoor temperatures are just as much a concern as outdoor exposure,” warns Elder.  

7. Finally, don't overlook the fundamentals of protecting residents' skin.

If residents can be shielded from the brutal midday sun, ensure they're wearing proper sunscreen, sunglasses and hats, and have access to shade. 

Another critical tip: Protect your residents from insect bites, especially in a time when the Zika virus has risen in prevalence, says Patti Baicy, director of McKesson Medical-Surgical's Extended Care Clinical Resource Team. Baicy suggests products that contain 25% Deet or 20% Picaridin. Also, scan your grounds to ensure there is no standing water and stay indoors during dusk and dawn, Logan adds.