The Commonwealth Government is urging aged care providers to ensure they are prepared for high temperatures after heat waves swept through the country’s southeast corner in recent weeks, and are expected to hit NSW over the weekend.
The government has issued a directive on extreme temperatures to all accredited aged care facilities and packaged care providers, through the Commonwealth Senior Nurse Advisor, Dr Susan Hunt.
“Elderly people are more prone to heat stress than younger people because their [bodies] may not adjust well to sudden temperature change,” said Dr Hunt’s directive.
“They are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that may interfere with the body’s ability to regulate fluid.”
Dr Hunt urged nursing home operators to regularly monitor room temperatures and the fluid levels of residents.
The government has also directed the Department of Health and Ageing to carry out an audit of the heating and cooling system in all 3,000 accredited aged care facilities.
In recent weeks, the department has conducted unannounced visits to nursing homes in South Australia and Victoria which were subject to complaints about excessive heat.
“This is about protecting our nation’s frail and aged,” the Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot said.
“Aged care providers have a legal obligation to ensure that they are providing proper care for residents.”
Mrs Elliot acknowledged that aged care staff are dedicated and committed to the care of older Australians but she stressed that they need to remain vigilant.
“[It] is important in heat wave conditions that they recognise residents may not be able to communicate their discomfort,” she said.