Enjoy warm temperatures with an eye toward safety

After a brutal winter, it seems like things are heating up fairly rapidly around the country. While the warmth feels good, remember that a comfortable temperature for younger people can be devastating for seniors.

Residents of a senior housing apartment in Atlanta have been dealing with temperatures in the 80 to 90 degree range, which has caused concern for their families. It seems that the residents of Friendship Tower haven’t had air conditioning all year.

Residents, many who have health problems or disabilities, are finding it hard to cope. The niece of a resident with cancer expressed her concern for his health and safety in a television report. Because of his medical condition, her uncle dehydrates easily.

The air conditioning is not expected to be restored before June 3, according to the niece’s conversation with building management.

If your maintenance staff hasn’t already done so, make sure air conditioning systems are working efficiently. Hopefully all system are go. If, however, the air conditioning goes down as a result of mechanical or power failure, then keep a close eye on your residents.

Seniors do not tolerate heat as well as younger people, often because of their medical conditions or their medications, which may inhibit the ability to sweat.

This is a great time to review the signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion with your staff, especially new hires.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers information on recognizing and treating heat-related stress in older people. Heat stress includes heat stroke and heat exhaustion.  If a resident exhibits severe signs of heat stress, which can be life-threatening, seek medical assistance while you begin cooling the person.

The CDC recommendations:

  • Get the person to a shady area.
  • Cool the person rapidly, whether by immersing in cool water or a cool shower, spraying with a garden hose or sponging with cool water. If the humidity is low, wrap the person in a wet sheet and fan vigorously.
  • Monitor body temperature and continue cooling until the body temperature drops to 101 or –102 degreesF.
  • If medical assistance is delayed, contact the emergency room for further instructions.

Hopefully, your residents will not experience heat-related health issues, but a staff trained in recognizing and treating the signs and symptoms will ensure a safe and enjoyable summer for all.

Related article: Spring into safety

Topics: Activities , Clinical , Operations , Risk Management , Staffing