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MSWA Bulletin Magazine Summer 2022

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Keeping your cool this summer | Welcome Melanie Kiely CEO | MSWA Stationary Cycle results | Pain and pain management series: Part 3


OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY KEEPING YOUR COOL! As we all know, living in beautiful Western Australia can certainly be hot in the summer months. The effect of this is exacerbated for people with thermoregulatory dysfunction and can have an enormous impact on their ability to function. What is thermoregulatory dysfunction? This is defined as a significant loss of a person’s capacity to control body temperature, and the medical conditions which result in the person’s health and bodily function being seriously affected when exposed to extremes of environmental temperatures. Thermoregulation and neurological conditions: Certain neurological conditions are commonly associated with thermoregulatory dysfunction. For instance, an estimated 60- 80% of people with MS experience temporary worsening of clinical signs and neurological symptoms with exposure to heat. The heat intolerance is related to the effect that heat has on the demyelinated axons slowing down or blocking the conduction of messages, hence leading to a decrease in function. MS may also cause an impairment to the neural control of the autonomic and endocrine functions, which assist our bodies to maintain a healthy core body temperature. What can we do to assist this? It is extremely important to try not to have too much or extended exposure to heat. However, there are plenty of pieces of assistive technology available to assist you to maintain your cool and decrease the detrimental effects of overheating. These can range from low-cost to high-cost items. The below will outline some of what is available. Low-Cost Items: There are a range of cooling items such as cooling neckties, vests, hats, pashminas and towels. These generally require wetting to activate the cooling mechanism. Some vests have ice packs that are inserted into pockets in the vest. Bedding such as sheets, pillowcases, mattress toppers, and quilt covers that are made from special fabric that can reduce the effect of overheating during the night. Personal fans such as the Arctic Air neck fan (available from Australia Post shops), desk or bench fans, or the Torras Coolify Wearable Air Conditioner (a neck fan). There are a number of websites that you can look at to find what may be suitable for you: 16

Mid-Cost Items: The next level of cost would include: Specialised bedding such as the Chilisleep: This is a cool mesh mattress topper that is hydropowered and allows you to maintain a personalised sleep climate. These come in a range to suit different bed sizes. Please see for more information. Personalised air conditioners that can be directed to cool directly on the person needing it: These would work well in a situation when one person prefers the heat and the other needs cooling. Ceiling fans: These can now be remote controlled, and some smart ones can be linked to a smart home device for voice activation. Standing fans: These can also be used via a remote and some can be accessed via voice control if linked to a smart home device. Visit for a range of personal cooling devices. Regular suppliers of electrical items will have a range of ceiling and floor fans. High-Cost Items: Air conditioners have become an essential part of Western Australian homes to assist with keeping us cool during the summer months. These can be either stand alone, wall mounted, or ducted. Refrigerated tend to work better in our climate rather than evaporative. There is an energy subsidy that can be applied for to assist with the ongoing cost of running air conditioning. To be eligible to apply for this you must meet the following criteria: / Pensioner concession card (either Centrelink or the Department of Veterans Affairs) / Health Care Card (not Commonwealth) / Health Care interim voucher Your medical practitioner will be required to fill in their part of the application and the subsidy needs to be renewed each year. The current subsidy amount equates to 4 per year. Where to seek funding for cooling assistive technology: 1. National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS): / Low cost, low risk personal cooling items can be purchased from your Core-Consumables budget. / For items under 00 it may be possible to purchase with a supporting letter from your occupational therapist. / More expensive items such as air conditioners will require an assistive technology application to be completed. Approval is not guaranteed, depending on the ‘Reasonable’ and ‘Necessary’ criteria. 2. Community Aids and Equipment Program (CAEP): If eligible for the Community Aids and Equipment Programme some assistance may be available for the low-cost personal items such as sheets, cooling vests, etc. 3. Job Access: If you are still working, some assistance may be obtained through Job Access. 4. If not eligible for any assistance, speak with your occupational therapist who may be able to discuss the option of looking at charitable funding. 5. MSWA has some assistive technology that can be trialled such as cooling vests and sheets. Contact your occupational therapist to arrange. ROBYN LOXLEY MSWA OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST WOULD YOU PREFER TO RECEIVE BULLETIN ONLINE? If you would like to opt-out of receiving a paper copy of this publication, please contact to sign up to the e-magazine. 17