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Floods and Care Homes

The possibility of floods has increased due it is debated, to global warming (Sanders D 2007).There are different types of flood including minor, major and flash floods. Flash floods occur within less than 6 hours and involve  a sudden rush of water (www.pagasa.dost.gov.ph) Recently there have been devastating floods across England. In central England alone more than half a million people have been directly affected, 500,000people have no drinking water and 250,000 people have no electricity (Sanders D 2007).

A number of care homes have been evacuated due to the floods. There have also been care homes evacuated in other countries such as Australia (www.abc.net 2005).This has vast implications for residents, relatives and staff. If not undertaken effectively, evacuation may have disastrous consequences resulting in for example, missing residents. The occurrence of  a flood is an emergency situation similar to other emergencies such as fire or terrorist attacks.

Problems for residents.
Residents live in  a care home and expect to be safe there. The registered home manager is ultimately responsible for all aspects of care from light bulbs to pressure area care  (Dimon 2006).
If a flood is occurring, the degree of risk will be surveyed by emergency services who will liaise with the home manager. At a critical stage, they will be informed to evacuate.

There are different degrees to which a  home may be flooded. In one care home, residents were carried through the water in wheelchairs (www.knaresbrough post.co.uk). Residents may also be taken from the care home to various other establishments depending upon where there is a bed. Residents from care homes in England were evacuated to other care homes in and out of the area (Paine D 2007), conference centres (Ward V 2007) or community centres (www.knaresbrough post.co.uk). When the establishment is not  a care home or hospital, it may affect the delivery of care to the residents. There will be no facilities such as hoist, commodes or appropriate beds.
There may be no time to gather belongings and residents may leave only with the clothes they are wearing. The manager must ensure that the care plan and medication go with the resident. Therefore all belongings in the resident’s room such as photographs, TVs, clothes may be destroyed by the flood. They may also be at risk of being stolen by looters. There may also be wheelchairs, walking frames and other equipment.  Most homes only insure residents’ belongings above a certain amount.

Residents may be moved to other establishments within the middle of the night causing further distress and confusion. Some residents may refuse to move; only emergency services could legally move them against their will (Dimon 2006). Indeed the actual move to anther establishment may worsen the resident’s condition or cause death (Dimon 2006).
Residents will have lived in the care home for various lengths of time possible days or years. They may become separated from the staff and other residents who they know or even husband and wife may be separated.
There may also be pets in the home such as cats and budgerigars who belong to the residents. In the new establishment, a new GP will have to be obtained as soon as possible. Residents may also be without hearing aids, glasses or dentures.
Whilst different residents react in various ways, one resident is very happy in his new care homes. He commented , “ when I was a desert rat, I had 17 pieces of shrapnel in my chest. I got through that I will get through this”.

Staff.
If the evacuation occurs in the night, there will not be many staff on duty so the manager and other staff will be requested to assist. However, they may not have access to the home due to the flood. Staff will be under much pressure to maintain the care and safety of residents.
Some residents may be barrier nursed, have intravenous infusions, peg feeds or oxygen.
Staff will be distressed as they are separated from residents. Depending on their employer, they may consequently be out of work, or they may work in the other homes, caring for other residents (Burns 2007).
The registered home manager must constantly be on call to respond to any queries from distressed relatives and other establishments where residents are.
The care home owner will be particularly anxious as the home may ultimately face closure due to flood damage or low occupancy.

Relatives.
Relatives must be kept informed throughout of when the evacuation occurs and where to. Some relatives may live abroad or be on holiday at the time thus they may be aware of the floods via the television for example.
Relatives could assist by purchasing clothes for residents and reassuring them. They could also inform the new establishment of the resident’s care. If the resident is in another care home, areas of concern may come to light causing further work for CSCi eg unreported pressure sore.
There will be no certainty regarding the time of return of the residents to the care home, if ever. The home will need refurbishing and renovating due to damage and contamination with sewage for example. Indeed, some residents may decide not to return at all.

Conclusion.
If the care home is adequately prepared, some of the distress to residents, relatives and staff may be avoided and staff undertake actions calmly and effectively.
If a care home has a contingency plan, this will outline clearly what action to undertake when a flood occurs. The author is aware of only one contingency plan (www.eastsussex.gov.uk). Practice evacuations may also be undertaken. A flood exercise was performed involving  a care home in 2004 (www.midbeds.gov.uk). There is a need for more contingency plans, exercises and training.

References.  

  1. www.abc.netnews2005
    Burns A(2007)
  2. Residents suffer for a second time
    www.thestar.co.uk 21st July
  3. Dimon C (2006)
    Decisions and dilemmas in care homes
    Fivepin.
  4. www.knaresbroughpost.co.uk accessed 15 July 2pm
  5. www.midbeds.gov.uk accessed 15 July
  6. www.pagasa.dost.gov.plh accessed 15 July
  7. Paine D (2007)
    Elderly evacuated from nursing home
    Redditch Advertiser Internet edition 20 July
  8. Ward V (2007)
    Water water everywhere – and not a drop to drink
    Daily Mirror July 23rd (2007)
  9. www.westsussex.gov.uk accessed 15 June 2pm



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