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Title: In the heat of power : understanding vulnerability to heatwaves in care homes for older people
Author: Brown, Samuel James
Awarding Body: Lancaster University
Current Institution: Lancaster University
Date of Award: 2010
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Rationale: From the 3rd to the 13th of August 2003 much of western Europe was embraced by one of the most extreme and destructive heatwaves in recorded history. In excess of 35,000 people perished (Kosatsky, 2005) as temperature records across Europe were broken. Analysis of mortality data from this event and others demonstrates that across the globe it is the oldest members of society who are at most risk in hot weather. In the UK there is a substantial amount of evidence to suggest that those amongst the older population who live dependently are more susceptible to the effects of extreme heat than those who don't, but as yet our understanding of exactly why this might be the case is limited. Some studies suggest that it can simply be put down to the increased physical frailty of older people who live in care homes, but others point to aspects of the care environment itself. There is, then, a need to develop a greater understanding of what aspects of living in a care home can make older residents hot. Method: This study took an ethnographic approach consisting of observation and interviews to investigating heatwave vulnerability in 4 London care homes. A qualitative approach of this kind offered the tools and techniques needed to unearth a level of complexity and depth around the" causes of heatwave vulnerability that relatively few studies have attempted before. Findings: The research found that vulnerability to heat in care homes is produced in a number of ways: Firstly, the material infrastructure of heating and cooling scripts heat management in care homes through its design and results in a building that is hard to keep cool. Secondly, hierarchical power structures prevent many of the home's staff and residents from interacting with the heating and cooling technologies available, meaning that when hot weather arrives they are unable to take the necessary adaptive measures. Thirdly, vulnerability is also produced through a discursive construction of the cold that frames it as problematic and dangerous to the health of older people. This formulation of the cold shapes heat management creating and normalising excessively warm indoor temperatures. Fourthly, residents are exposed to excessively high temperatures through the action of disciplinary power which seeks to control and reform residents by holding them in place. When hot weather arrives they are then unable to take the simplest and most fundamental adaptive measure of moving to somewhere cooler. Finally vulnerability is produced through the timetable which controls the activity of staff and residents through routine and introduces an inertia and inflexibility into everyday life that makes adapting even seemingly the simplest of tasks to the needs hot weather extremely difficult. The exclusion of certain heat management practices then generates further vulnerability by resulting in their being conducted in a piecemeal and uncoordinated fashion.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available