Safety for Care Home and Hospice Gardens

Many people in care homes and hospices look forward to the ever-changing scenery of a garden as it comes alive after the frosty months of winter. However, it is critical to be safety-conscious. Read our guide to keeping your residents safe in the garden.

Elderly gardener with plants

Gardening can be a very fulfilling activity particularly for the elderly, those with learning difficulties, or suffering from dementia.

Apart from the obvious rewards of fresh air and exercise, gardening can have physical, mental and therapeutic benefits. It can reduce stress levels, be mentally stimulating, help with social interaction and give a real sense of satisfaction and pride in accomplishing something everyone can enjoy. It is therefore a great activity to encourage at your care home or hospice to help your residents.

Assess the risks of care home or hospice gardening

However, it is important to remember how these tranquil settings can also have hidden risks which require attention in the same way threats within the home are dealt with. Before your residents venture out into a care home or hospice garden, or any activity takes place, ensure the correct risk assessments have been completed.

Key care home or hospice garden risks

Some important tasks to mitigate risks in your care home or hospice garden before the summer months are:

  • Checking that pathways, decking and steps have not eroded during the winter months and become uneven or loose.
  • Ensuring garden waste is properly managed and that there are no wet leaves left on pathways which can become slippery.
  • Signposting entrances, exits and hazards, such as garden features to minimise confusion and falls.
  • Ensuring brickwork and fencing is regularly maintained to minimise weather damage.
  • Regularly check garden furniture which can be weakened due to weather or overuse.
  • Keeping hedges and shrubs regularly pruned back to avoid overhanging branches that can obstruct pathways.
  • Ensuring there are no poisonous plants within the garden that could cause harm.
  • Maintaining garden lighting and ensure any dark areas of the garden are well lit.
  • Checking that any restricted areas are adequately secure.

You should also ensure you do not leave any gardening equipment unattended, and may want to consider fitting safety glass in any greenhouses.

Keeping residents cool in the garden

High temperatures can be dangerous, especially for the elderly. It is useful to be prepared if the weather is hot, to keep your care home or hospice residents cool in the garden.

  • Drink plenty of water – ensure all staff and service users are kept well hydrated. The body loses a lot of water on hot days.
  • Keep buildings well-ventilated – open windows or turn on air conditioning. The circulation of air will ensure service users and staff are kept cool.
  • Prepare cool areas for service users.
  • Dress “cool” – loose fitting clothes will help keep you cool.
  • Ensure all service users are using sunscreen and, if outside, sit in a shaded area.
  • Avoid sitting outdoors between 11am and 3pm.
  • Avoid unnecessary activity – this will only work towards the body losing water.
  • Check medications – the heat may cause reactions to certain medications.
  • Identify high-risk residents and ensure they are checked on regularly.
  • Look out for signs of heat exhaustion which include fatigue, weakness, nausea, anhidrosis rapid pulse and confusion.

If any care home or hospice member of staff or resident starts to show signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion, seek medical advice immediately. Ensure they are kept in a cool and shaded area and are kept well hydrated while you wait for medical assistance.

Source: http://www.nhs.uk/LiveWell/Summerhealth/Pages/Summerhealthhome.aspx

Elderly gardener with care worker

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