There’s nothing quite like the Australian summer. Searing temperatures, high winds, and prolonged heat waves can have devastating consequences on our plant life, our animals and even our people.
Elderly Australians are particularly vulnerable during the summer months, with issues like heat stroke, dehydration, exhaustion, and heat syncope all being very real possibilities for those who are unable to get cool and stay hydrated.
And one of the recommendations that come up over and over again in order to avoid these types of heat-related ailments, is for elderly people to spend as much time in air-conditioned environments as possible.
It is so important in fact, that elderly people without air conditioning are often told to utilise public spaces like shopping centres and libraries during the hottest periods of the day and take advantage of their air conditioning in order to stay cool.
Seeing as air conditioning is such a vital component of ensuring that an elderly person is safe from these issues in the summer months, it should be no surprise that the topic of mandatory air-conditioning in aged care facilities is starting to heat up.
The Australian Government have recently released their eight Aged Care Quality Standards that will come into effect from July 1st and apply to all aged care services.
And one area of importance that seems to have vanished from the standards was an apparent clause that previously referred to aged care services providing “comfortable internal temperatures,” that is now missing from the published aged care standards.
Aged care industry peak body Leading Aged Services Australia (LASA) were given the opportunity to provide comments on the draft version of the Aged Care Quality Standards, and expressed initial concerns at the idea of all services requiring air-conditioning on page 14 of their document.
The final set of guidelines appears to have adapted a more vague approach in terms of its service environment standards, removing any notion of internal temperature control and replacing it with broader terms like ‘a safe and comfortable environment’ instead.
Seemingly opening loopholes for any service provider who chooses not to provide air conditioning for their residents.
The NSW president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr. Kean-Seng Lim, told HelloCare that providing a comfortable and controlled environment without air-conditioning was possible, but there was definitely an element of risk involved in forgoing making air-conditioning mandatory.
“There is a definite risk that if a facility has not been specifically designed to accommodate high temperatures that it can create an environment that is not conducive with comfortable and controlled temperatures.”
“The older that people are, the more difficult it comes to be able to control their body temperature. And those 65 and over are at a heightened risk of complications due to the heat.”
“People in aged care environments often require medication to assist with various issues, and the use of medication can make it even more difficult to regulate their body temperatures.”
When asked why any aged care service providers would be opposed to making air conditioning mandatory within an aged care setting, Dr. Kean-Seng Lim was quick to deliver his diagnosis.
“I wonder if it simply comes down to the increased costs.” said Dr. Lim.