Top tips for older people staying safe in extreme heat

 

With heatwaves being experienced in parts of Australia and high temperatures expected on the eastern seaboard this weekend, leading aged care provider, HammondCare has released five top tips for minimising heat stress for older people.

“Older people are at increased risk of heat-related illnesses and need special care in hot weather,” said Angela Raguz, General Manger Residential Care, HammondCare.

“People aged over 65 years should take special care on hot days. Risk factors include living alone, chronic medical problems and certain medications,” Ms Raguz said.

The five top tips recommended by HammondCare for older people to minimise heat stress on hot days are:

  1. Stay indoors
  2. Drink plenty of fluids - preferably water
  3. Keep as cool as possible – by using air conditioning or fans if available
  4. Store cool water in the fridge
  5. Wear light, loose fitting clothing

Ms Raguz said it was also a good idea on days with very hot temperatures, for family members, friends or neighbours to check in on older people throughout the day.

“Make sure older people are drinking plenty of fluids and if possible, have access to air-conditioning or a fan.”

Special strategies for residential care

Ms Raguz said a number of special strategies to help with extreme heat were available for residential aged care homes to help ensure the comfort and safety of residents.

These include:

  • Blinds would be closed all day
  • Air conditioning checks regularly to ensure they are working correctly
  • All services familiar with Critical Operations Standing Operating Procedures (COSOPS) in case of emergency
  • Ice blocks purchased for residents and staff
  • Iced water available all day
  • Hourly drinks supplied to all residents
  • Residents staying out of the sun
  • An additional night staff member per facility as temperatures are expected to be in the high late into the night
  • Fluids and observation will need to be carried into the night.

HammondCareAtHome spokesperson Jo Luhr said HammondCareAtHome care workers visiting older people living at home would go to extra lengths to ensure that special strategies were implemented to help older people cope with the heat.

“Care workers will ensure client's homes are 'closed' against the weather, that they have extra fluids, that fans and air-conditioners are on and, as well, extra visits are rostered to ensure older people are closely monitored during this period of hot weather,” Ms Luhr said.

"To encourage drinking water - if people are tea drinkers - this could mean placing tea cups full of water around the home in strategic spots to prompt drinking. Another idea could be outings to air-conditioned shopping centres if appropriate.

"Fluids could be provided in ice blocks, ice cream, salad and jellies. And some older people may dress inappropriately so trying to assist with and encouraging lighter clothing is important."

Ms Luhr said HammondCare At Home services would also advise clients to avoid exertion, use moist cool towels to moisten skin and that staff would be given information to identify heat exhaustion or dehydration so they can report concerns to managers.

"Of course we also ask our care workers to drink more themselves and be more aware of the heat, taking opportunities to remain safe."

Why are older people more vulnerable to heat?
  • People aged 65 years and over are at increased risk of heat-related illnesses and need special care in hot weather.
  • Risk factors include living alone, chronic medical problems and certain medications.
  • Take steps to prevent heat stress on days when the temperature is predicted to rise above 30°C or so.
  • Source: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/heat-stress-and-older-people