Look after the elderly this Christmas
As the nation braces for another baking hot summer, the AMA is urging people to look out for their elderly relatives, friends and neighbours this holiday season.
AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said Australia’s notoriously hot summers can be a dangerous time for the elderly, particularly for those who live alone, have chronic medical problems, or limited mobility.
“As the mercury rises, we should all keep an eye out for our older relatives, friends and neighbours,” Dr Hambleton said.
“Many elderly have problems coping with hot weather, and they can all too easily suffer life-threatening heat stroke if others are not around to spot the warning signs and take action.”
As people age, their ability to cope with extremes of temperature deteriorates. The fact that many also have chronic health problems, are often taking multiple medications, and may live alone, adds to their vulnerability.
Dr Hambleton said during hot spells people should check in regularly with elderly relatives, friends and neighbours, particularly if they are living alone.
“Drop by every day or two, or a couple of times a day if they live alone or are bedridden, just to see how they are going,” he said.
“Tell-tale signs that they are not coping include hot and dry skin, a rapid pulse, cramps, confusion, dizzy spells, fainting, nausea and vomiting.”
Dr Hambleton said there are several things people could do to make sure their elderly relatives and friends stayed safe when the temperature soars.
“If they don’t have air conditioning at home, take them to a cooler place like a shopping centre or library for respite from the heat.
“Make sure their home is adequately ventilated. In the absence of air conditioning, fans are a good way to move the air and help evaporation to keep bodies cool.”
He said people should be aware of any medications their elderly friends and relatives may be using, because many common drugs, such as antihistamines, heart pills, diuretics and sedatives, increased the risk of heat stress.
23 December 2013
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Published: 23 Dec 2013