We all know the stifling pressure and sticky weather of a heatwave, and we all know just how frustrating it can be to try and stay cool when the air hangs heavy and the temperature cranks up and up. Sweating through your clothes or your sheets can be uncomfortable and irritating, but high temperatures can be a real and dangerous health risk. Even for conditioned athletes such as football players, heat stroke is a clear and present danger whenever the temperature climbs too high.
For those of us not in athlete-shape, the danger of heat stroke is even higher. But for elder persons, the risk and danger of excessive heat is a real cause for concern that requires attentive support and preventative measures. Elder persons are at much higher risk of suffering severe health effects from high temperatures, and it is important that they take additional precautions to keep themselves safe.
As part of their role, geriatric care managers complete a full-picture assessment that addresses many different risks, needs, concerns, and health issues relevant to the environment and to their client’s living situation. As part of this, maintaining a healthy home temperature is a critical part of assessing every client’s living situation. Below are some things that our geriatric care managers look out for in their assessments:
Is the home properly ventilated? Is there enough airflow within the home to allow for exchange of cool fresh air? Is there central air? AC Units? Fans only? One of the recommendations from the CDC for heat stress for elder persons is to not rely only on fans, and to augment the home with an AC for serious heat. If that isn’t an option, you can contact the local health department for public facilities with Air Conditioning available to spend the hottest part of the day.
Make sure that clients and elders are staying hydrated throughout the day. Drink more water than usual. Do not wait until you feel thirsty to drink, instead drink consistently throughout the day. In cases where a medical issue limits the allowed intake of water, consult with the elder persons medical team to see how much is allowed for hot weather.
Stay out of the sun
Direct sunlight can rapidly increase the temperature of surfaces and clothing, as well as skin. This exposure can amplify the stress of high heat and make heat stroke and other health issues even more likely. Staying in the shade can help keep temperatures down and ensure a safer, cooler environment.
Using a stove or an oven to cook during hot weather can make the already sweltering temperatures even worse. Although the blinds may be closed from the sun and AC is running, a hot stove cooking a casserole can ramp up the ambient interior temperature faster than fans or AC can cool. Avoid cooking, and stick with colder or room temperature foods.
These tips can help negate the danger of high temperatures for elders, but the most important factor is staying vigilant and aware of the possible signs of heat-stroke and overheating. Cramps, headaches, nausea, and vomiting are all serious issues and signs of dangerous heat stress. Stay vigilant and stay cool! If you have any questions about heat safety for yourself or your elder relatives and friends, feel free to call us at Senior Steps for a free consultation!