Kew Gardens

Caring for older people in warmer weather

Dear HACC Provider
 Important reminder about caring for older people in warmer weather I am writing to remind you of the impact that warmer weather may have on the older people to whom you provide care or services and the extra precautions and interventions that may be needed. It is likely that the average maximum temperatures this summer will be hotter than the long-term average maximum temperatures, over large parts of Australia.  And as you know, hotter summer weather means we need to be alert to the possibility of heatwaves. Older people are among those most at risk of heat-related illness.  Due to normal age-related changes to the body, older people do not always recognise that they are over-heated.  In addition, · older people are more likely to have a chronic medical condition and to be taking medication that may interfere with the body’s ability to regulate fluid. Older people living in the community therefore may suffer from heat stress and those who live alone without regular contact from others may be particularly at risk.  Vulnerable people are particularly at risk when there are high night-time temperatures. You will need to determine whether the level of service you provide to your clients involves you taking steps to help maintain their well-being during heatwaves.  Generally this will apply to services involving a level of direct interaction with clients (such as personal or clinical care) or client care planning and/or coordination (case management).  Where appropriate, the attached checklist may assist you to support vulnerable clients during a heat wave and to meet the requirements of the Home Care Standards, particularly Standard 2 (Identifying Care Needs). About heat-related illness The effects of heat-related illnesses can range from mild conditions such as a rash or cramps to very serious conditions such as severe confusion or heat stroke.  Heat may also worsen the condition of someone who already has a medical condition such as heart disease. A clinical assessment will be required if your client shows any signs of deterioration. A special note about medicines Some medicines increase the risk of heat-associated illness in susceptible people.  These include: •    medicines that cause dehydration or electrolyte imbalance; •    medicines likely to reduce renal function; and •    medicines that interfere with the production or regulation of heat. If you are concerned about a client’s wellbeing, his or her medical practitioner should be immediately contacted. In an emergency, contact the relevant emergency service. You may find it useful to display the attached checklist as a reminder for your staff over the coming summer months. Further information is available from state and territory health department websites. Susan Hunt, RN, PhD, FRCNA Senior Nurse Advisor Office of Aged Care Quality and Compliance 20 December 2013