Vigilance needed for older Queenslanders as 2023 declared hottest year on record

December 9, 2023
December 9, 2023

The Australian summer is well and truly here, and with yesterday’s announcement that 2023 is officially the hottest year on record*, and parts of Queensland expected to reach over 40 degrees in the next week, concerns for the hydration and overall health of older Queenslanders grows.

As the largest provider for clinical and personal care for older Queenslanders, BlueCare Group General Manager for Community Ms Maria McLaughlin-Rolfe, said it was critical for older people, and people that care for them, to understand the potential dangers during the heat and learn how to stay well and hydrated during these extreme peaks.

“As we age our bodies cannot regulate our temperature as well, making it much easier to overheat and become seriously dehydrated.

“This means that in extremely hot weather, like we are experiencing now, older Queenslanders are at serious risk of heat-related illnesses, including life-threatening heat exhaustion and heat stroke,” Ms McLaughlin-Rolfe said.

“We should all know the signs and how to quickly respond.”

Signs of heat-related illness:

  • Dehydration - dizziness, tiredness, irritability, loss of appetite, bright or dark urine.
  • Heat cramps - profuse sweating, painful muscle cramps, usually in the legs and abdomin
  • Heat exhaustion - dry mouth and eyes, nausea or vomiting, pale complexion, poor coordination.
  • Heat stroke - fast and shallow breathing, rapid pulse, swollen tongue, confusion and poor coordination

Dehydration requires rest and plenty of water and avoiding caffeine and alcohol, while symptoms of heat exhaustion and stroke require immediate action and medical attention.

Ms McLaughlin-Rolfe said BlueCare had recently teamed up with Griffith University—supported by funding from the Queensland Government—to develop heat health resources specifically for older Queenslanders as the risks of heat-related illness intensify each summer.

“Our older generation is very vulnerable and less likely to identify or express concerns, so it is critical the rest of the community keeps an eye on them during these periods,” she said.

“Our carers are vigilant during these times, but we need everyone that interacts with older people in the community to be aware, help minimise any risks or call for help if concerned.”

BlueCare has developed a suite of tools and resources for older people and those that care for them on how to manage the heat including information on how to prepare for heatwaves, identify heat-related illnesses, staying hydrated, tips for keeping the home cool and the safe storage of medicine.

These resources are available free at our Heat safety page.

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