Elderly more susceptible to summer heat

Residents at the Hibiscus Coast Village, in Red Beach, celebrated the re-opening of their recently-renovated café and bar on February 30. Metlifecare chief executive Glen Sowry (right) and food and beverage manager Gareth Carden did the cake cutting honours. Metlifecare, which is building the nearby Gulf Rise retirement development, expects the first 55 apartments to be ready by mid-year.

As temperatures soar in New Zealand, residential aged care facilities are being urged to be mindful of the effects of the heat on older people, and especially those with medical conditions.

Canterbury District Health Board medical officer Alistair Humphrey says New Zealanders should not be complacent, as the weather is at an extremely dangerous level.

He says elderly and young children are particularly vulnerable, and Kiwis should make sure they are stocked up on fluids all day long and keep the windows open.

“Elderly people, who don’t regulate heat quite as well, are coming into emergency departments dizzy from not having drunk enough and are not wearing hats.”

Older people can suffer from the results of poor circulation caused by rising temperatures. Symptoms include dizziness, dry skin, swelling and shortness of breath.

Higher body temperatures can also disturb the body’s normal biological cycle, which regulates physical health, cognition and emotions. It can lead to altered sleep quality.

Increased sweating can result in uncomfortable clamminess and losses of fluid.

It is important to try to keep cool and hydrate.

Lecturer at the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Newcastle, in Australia, Dr John Van Der Kallen, advises increased vigilance when it comes to the elderly, encouraging friends and family to check in on those at risk.

Dr Van Der Kallen says being proactive in regard to dehydration, especially as certain medicines dehydrate the elderly, is key.

“Often the reason the elderly is at risk is they are on medication,” he says. “Their physiological responses to heat are not the same as a younger person. A younger person might feel thirsty earlier, might feel weak earlier and might get headaches earlier. An elderly person’s responses can be quite dulled.

“We have to start adapting to these events. This year has been unprecedented, but unfortunately this is what is going to happen as the world gets hotter.”

Experts say those most vulnerable to the heat were elderly, pregnant people, babies, and those who already had medical conditions. But healthy adults who work outdoors and those people who were in institutions like prisons, hospitals and residential care are also especially vulnerable. Article courtesy, healthcentral.nz

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