Heatwaves potential killer of the aged

More than 2.5 million elderly Australians are at risk of serious injury or death due to heat-related illness and require extra precautions and care as temperatures rise.


The increased heat can lead to hyperthermia, dehydration, heatstroke, cramps and rashes, all of which are potentially deadly to the nation’s elderly, as their bodies are often unable to cool themselves down to maintain a healthy temperature says Prestige Inhome Care CEO and Registered Nurse, Nick McDonald.


“The elderly population are more prone to heat stress and exhaustion as their body does not cope well to sudden or prolonged temperature changes, and just a few degrees variation in body temperature can be the difference between life and death. One of the biggest issues is hydration, older people just don't drink. This has obvious health implications at the best of times but in heat the ramifications can be disastrous. We need to take extra care of our family, neighbours and friends during a heatwave,” says Nick.


The signs of heat-related illness can be varied however; they include hot and dry skin, nausea and vomiting, paleness, disorientation or the worsening of pre-existing medical conditions.


As the heat wave spreads across much of Australia, Nick is encouraging family, friends and the local community to band together to check on and care for their older relatives, friends and neighbours. There are many ways that you can assist and help the elderly avoid heat stress.


Five tips to prevent and manage heat related-illness of the aged:

1. Air flow – make sure the home is equipped with an air conditioner or electric fan with adequate cross ventilation

2. Keep cool – offer a wet towel or washer to cool down body temperature

3. Check in – check on them frequently, either by phone or in person to look for signs of heat stress or exhaustion

4. Stay hydrated – ensure your loved one has plenty of water and fluid to stay hydrated throughout the heat wave

5. Be alert – remember that an elderly or impaired person may not be able to communicate when he or she is feeling hot or ill.


There are a number of options for checking on the welfare of the elderly. They include aged care service providers and the Red Cross.


See details about the Red Cross Telecross service at http://www.redcross.org.au/telecross.aspx


4 January 2015.