Did you know that over 500 people die from heat stress in Australia every year? Older individuals are particularly vulnerable to the heat, making caring for the elderly in summer an important job.
According to Australia Medical Association of Queensland Council of General Practice chair Richard Kidd, more people are killed from heat stress each year than any other natural disaster in Australia including floods, cyclones and fires.
Taking precautions to protect the elderly in summer can save lives and enable them to enjoy the warmer months while staying safe.
What can you do as an aged care worker to ensure those in your care are adequately taken care of on a hot day? Here’s just a few things to keep in mind this summer.
Maintain a cool body temperature
It can be tricky to keep cool in the heat, especially if you do like to be up and about. Air conditioning or fans are obvious strategies for staying cool, but you could also try wetting a face washer with cool water and applying it to the neck, behind the knees and on the face or arms.
Hydration is vital
As we age we are less able to conserve water in our bodies, leaving older people more vulnerable to dehydration. They could also simply forget to drink water or not notice the symptoms of dehydration, like darker urine and dry lips. Fresh water should be on hand at all times and those in your care should be encouraged to take sips regularly.
Check the meds
If the resident you are caring for is taking medications, check whether dosage needs to be reassessed in the heat. Some medications can also raise the body temperature, which is not ideal especially in a heat wave.
If an elderly resident wants or needs to be in the outdoors on a hot day, be careful to slip, slop, slap. Sunscreen, hats, sunglasses — stay covered and find shade where possible.
Avoid sticky, sweaty fabrics like polyester and rayon, and aim for light, natural materials. Cotton and linen are ideal options for comfortable summer clothes that won’t make you hotter than you need to be.
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