Heat Wave Puts Elderly at Risk
It was 3:00 PM when Linda noticed her elderly neighbor had not been out to pick up her paper nor opened her windows. A heat wave had kept temperatures near 100 degrees all week long. When Linda knocked on her neighbor’s door, Megan, 88 years old answered immediately. "Is it morning yet?" she asked confused at why Linda was at her door. Linda noticed that Megan’s eyes were sunken, she was disoriented and dizzy. The temperature in her house was well over 100 degrees. A call for an ambulance saved Megan’s life. She was extremely dehydrated and suffering heat exhaustion.
With the hot summer heat upon most of the nation and temperatures topping 100 degrees, dehydration and heat exhaustion are a high danger for the elderly. Illnesses relating to aging, medication and the body’s aging process cause a quicker reaction to the heat than someone younger.
An elderly person may not recognize what is happening until life threatening conditions have become evident. Family and friends can save the lives of their loved ones and friends by simply checking on them daily during the hot season and knowing the danger signs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists signs to watch for in elderly with heat exhaustion and fatigue:
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle Cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
- Skin: may be cool and moist
- Pulse rate: fast and weak
- Breathing: fast and shallow
A few simple steps can help someone suffering from the heat. If they do not have air conditioning, provide a fan to move the air around, see that there is plenty of water within reach of their chair or in the refrigerator. Freeze some bottled water to set on their laps or in their chairs to help lower their body temperature. Encourage them to take a cool shower during the hottest time of day. Take them on an outing to a mall or other air conditioned facility. Check the hours and activities at local Senior Centers where they can spend some time during the day.
Volunteer services extend extra time in the summer to check on the elderly. Meals on Wheels volunteers in Mid-South make a point to leave extra water with daily meals.
Shelby County Senior Services volunteer staff check on dozen of residents most susceptible to hot temperatures. Humboldt State University youth volunteer group helps seniors throughout the year.
Neighborhoods are filled with people who are dog walkers, bird watchers, joggers, walkers and baby strollers. This summer let’s add elderly helpers to that list. Just being an alert neighbor may save a seniors life.