The health of elderly people across the country is being severely impacted as they struggle to keep their homes warm in the freezing temperatures throughout winter.
The rising cost of electricity has become a major concern for the elderly in particular with new data revealing more than 130 people were admitted to NSW emergency departments last winter with cold-related problems such as hypothermia.
The NSW Health Data revealed throughout June, July and August last year a total of 137 people were admitted to emergency departments in NSW, marking the highest figure since 2015 when the total reached 173.
Speaking about the shocking statistics, emergency department specialist professor Gordian Fulde said she main reason for the increase in cold-related illness was due to the inability to afford to keep the heater running at home.
“A few weeks ago it was a very real problem when it was cold and the elderly are our most vulnerable,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
“To be dramatic, old people get found dead in their flats and apartments, and though we don’t know what caused it, we know getting cold is a big stress (on their health).”
This alarming data follows that released by The Alfred and Sandringham emergency departments in Victoria which found a huge number of older Aussies are dying in hospital of hypothermia, after first contracting it while living in their own homes.
Hypothermia occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it, causing dangerously low body temperatures which can first lead to irritability and confusion but later, weak or absent respiration and even death.
Surprisingly, the research published in the Internal Medicine Journal, found 217 people were admitted to the emergency departments with hypothermia between 2009 and 2016 – with 11 per cent of those dying. Meanwhile, a whopping 80 per cent of the patients were found indoors and were more likely to be elderly with several health conditions.
The severity of the issue was first alerted to doctors during 2015 when Victoria experienced its coldest winter in 26 years.
“There was a real run of these patients which made us interested in seeing any patterns of the hypothermia presentations,” general medicine physician at The Alfred, Dr Ananda-Rajah, said.