Heat wave poses a serious threat to frail elderly

From Texas to Alaska, the West and Southwest are in the grips of an oppressive heat wave posting triple-digit temperatures. The senior population is particularly at risk during weather emergencies such as this. 

Frail older people can be adversely affected by extreme temperature because they may suffer from various medical conditions and be taking multiple medications. Whether seniors live in long-term care settings or remain at home, the need for caution and vigilance is the same. Watch for signs of heat stroke, exhaustion and cramps.

Because air conditioners are working overtime to cool buildings, the strain on the power supply can lead to outages. Be prepared. In Springfield, Mo., Oxford Health Care has distributed 500 fans to local seniors in the community to help them beat the heat.

“These folks don’t regulate their body temperatures, so they don’t realize the onset of those symptoms as quickly,” says Mike Brothers, a spokesperson for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department in an interview with KY3-TV news, Springfield, Mo.

Long-term care facilities are not immune to the challenges of keeping residents comfortable, safe and healthy during a heat emergency. Being prepared is key to riding the wave successfully. However, you never know when equipment will break down. If your air conditioners shut down, do you have a backup generator to keep them going? Is your facility on a priority list for a local heating/cooling contractor? If things really go wrong, do you have arrangements for residents to shelter at another location?

If the building can be kept at a reasonable temperature, many of these dangers can be circumvented. Caregiving can continue without unnecessary caregiver stress and exhaustion.

When Mother Nature throws you lemons, make lemonade and stay cool! Please let us know how you fared during this heat emergency.

Topics: Activities , Disaster Preparedness , Facility management , Operations