Check elderly during heatwave, authorities warn

Health warnings have been issued in Australia’s southern states as authorities respond to the ongoing heatwave and call on healthcare services to check on older people.

The Pilot Heatwave Forecast from the BOM shows the location of the heatwaves.
The Pilot Heatwave Forecast from the BOM shows the location of the heatwaves.

Health warnings have been issued in Australia’s southern states as authorities respond to the ongoing heatwave and called on community and healthcare services and staff to look out for older people, particularly those living alone.

In Victoria, the state Department of Health on Monday issued “heat health alerts” as temperatures rose above 40 degrees.

Victorian Minister for Health David Davis said the Heat Health Alert System notified local governments and health and community service providers of forecast heatwave conditions to help them prepare for extreme temperatures that could impact on health.

“We know that heat related illness and deaths can occurs when the 24-hour average temperature goes above 30 degrees.”

The alerts were issued in parts of Victoria on Monday and extended to most of the state on Tuesday. Further alerts were expected later in the week, Mr Davis said.

The state’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Rosemary Lester, said heat-related illness could affect anyone and a range of actions should be taken to minimise the potential harm extreme heat can cause.

“The effects of heat-related illnesses can range from mild conditions such as a rash or cramps to very serious conditions such as heat stroke, which can be fatal. Importantly, heat may worsen the condition of someone who already has a medical condition such as heart disease,” said Dr Lester.

Senator Mitch Fifield tweeted about the heatwaves on Tuesday.
Senator Mitch Fifield tweeted about the heatwaves on Tuesday.

Commissioner for Senior Victorians Gerard Mansour said elderly people were particularly at risk from heat events, particularly those living alone, people who were unwell, especially with heart or kidney disease, and people who had a disability or mental illness.

“Elderly people are more prone to heat stress than younger people because their body may not adjust well to sudden temperature change,” Mr Mansour said.

“They are more likely to have a chronic medical condition and to be taking medication that may interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature. All residential aged care services are responsible for developing and implementing their own emergency management and heatwave plans,” he said.

The Victorian Department of Health provides resources to all residential aged care facilities including the Residential Aged Care Services Heatwave Ready Resource.

South Australia: Phone system activated

Meanwhile, in South Australia, Premier Jay Weatherill on Tuesday confirmed the state’s Telecross REDi had been activated to support the most vulnerable.

The Telecross REDi service, run by the Red Cross, is activated by the South Australian Department for Communities & Social Inclusion when an extreme weather event is declared.

Mr Weatherill praised the 60 staff and volunteers with the Red Cross in Adelaide and 20 in Mount Gambier who were staffing the phones to call those people who lived alone, or were housebound, to check on their welfare and ensure they had adequate food and medication.

More than 1,800 people were currently registered with Telecross REDi.

Mr Weatherill said the SES, as lead agency for extreme weather events, was working closely with other agencies including SA Police, SA Health and SA Ambulance Service to minimise the impact of the severe weather.

SA Health fact sheets on staying healthy in extreme heat can be found at the SA Health Website and on the SES website

The heatwaves are a topic of conversation on Twitter today, with providers linking to resources.
The heatwaves were a topic of conversation on Twitter on Tuesday, with providers like IRT Group linking to resources.

Tasmania: Plans in place

In Tasmania, the Director of Public Health and the Chief Executive of Ambulance Tasmania on Monday issued a joint warning about the possible impacts of the current heatwave in Tasmania.

Director of Public Health Dr Roscoe Taylor said plans were in place to assist vulnerable people in health facilities and aged care facilities. “The Ambulance Service and Population Health Services have been working collaboratively for over 12 months to develop robust plans to provide advice and guidance to the public and health facilities when facing heat events,” Dr Taylor said.

Ambulance Tasmania CEO Dominic Morgan said that severe heat events had the potential to be life threatening and yet their effects could be relatively easily mitigated if the right steps were taken. “While Tasmania does not often experience the high temperatures of the mainland states it would be a mistake to think that vulnerable people such as the very young and the elderly could not be significantly affected by higher than normal temperatures.”

Mr Morgan continued: “The elderly are less able to cope with the heat and if you know a family member might be at risk from hot weather, please check on them regularly.”

The Tasmanian Department of Health has provided advice for older people and advice for those caring for an older person


Tags: david-davis, dominic morgan, gerard-mansour, heatwaves, jay weatherill, mitch-fifield, red-cross, roscoe taylor, rosemary lester, twitter,

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