Keeping Seniors Safe During Heat Waves

July 22, 2019

Did you know older adults are more vulnerable to hot weather? Seniors account for a disproportionate number of heat related hospitalizations and deaths. Exposure to extreme heat, even for short periods of time, can aggravate health conditions.

According to Dr. Heidi J. Syropoulos (https://insights.ibx.com/keeping-seniors-safe-summer-heat/), here are some reasons why the heat can be so difficult for this age group:

Diseases. Some diseases, such as peripheral vascular disease or heart disease, make it more difficult for the body to circulate blood and cool down properly. Other diseases, like dementia or diabetes, make it a challenge to be aware of the sensation of hot temperatures.

Medications/drugs. Medications, such as diuretics, can exacerbate the dehydrating effects of high temperatures. Any drug that is a sedative or tranquilizer can blunt an individual’s awareness of discomfort, including alcohol.

Effects of aging. As we grow older, normal processes of aging make our bodies less efficient at regulating body temperature and responding to thirst appropriately. So, seniors may have less ability to sense when they are too hot or thirsty.

Mobility and travel limitations. Many seniors who live on their own cannot venture far from their homes or apartments. This may be for mobility reasons, but it can also be due to safety concerns. Because they are less inclined or able to keep windows open to help with cooling and for air circulation, elderly residents are much more vulnerable to rising indoor temperatures if the power goes out. And they may be unable to easily leave for a cooler environment.

At The Saybrook at Haddam, we help our residents stay cool by maintaining a comfortable indoor temperature, encouraging hydration by offering fluids and water-packed fruit throughout the day, and staying indoors as much as possible during times of extreme heat. This past weekend, residents kept busy playing games, enjoying music, painting, brushing up on computer skills, and learning about England, Scotland, and Wales during “The Great Tours” presentation. Due to all our precautions, we thankfully didn’t have any heat-related incidents during this heat wave; but if there ever are any concerns, our great Wellness staff is available 24/7.

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