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Expert Elder Care Guidance
Expert Elder Care Guidance
Heat waves can be dangerous for older adults, who for a variety of reasons can’t take heat as well they did when they were younger. In fact, it’s important for caregivers to view heat waves as equally dangerous as cold spells. Our guide to hot weather safety will tell you why heat waves can be so dangerous, and how you can help protect your parents during a heat wave.
Why is heat so dangerous?
Older people – especially those in their eighties or older – are extremely susceptible to changes in temperature. Their brain’s thermostat starts to lose its sensitivity to pick up temperature changes; circulatory problems and medications can throw an older person’s “thermostat” out of whack. Older people also lose their ability to sweat, which means they’re left without nature’s natural protective cooling system. And to make matters worse, older people also lose their sense of thirst, so may not crave a glass of water to cool them down during a heat wave.
Complicating things, most older people respect warnings about not going out in extreme cold yet seem to happily garden, mow their lawns or walk in ninety-degree heat. It’s almost seen as a badge of honor to be able to “take the heat” since their generation grew up without air conditioning. However, while it is normal for your parents not to feel the heat like they used to, it doesn’t mean they can take that heat. Just as you’d check in on your aging relatives during an ice storm, it’s good to do the same when the temperature stays in the nineties for more than two days.
Preventing heat stroke or hyperthermia
Here are some things you can do to make sure your parents don’t suffer from a heat stroke or hyperthermia during a heat wave:
Whatever you do, check in with your parents and reach out to elderly neighbors when the National Weather Service and your local weather station warn of heat waves. They can be every bit as devastating to human life as a tornado. In Philadelphia in 1994 over 100 people, most of them elderly, died from the heat. As a result, many Area Agencies on Aging throughout the nation now give out fans, take people to air-conditioned senior centers or malls, and have identified at-risk elders through their home-delivered meals programs to reduce the incidence of heat-related deaths. You can call 1.800.677.1116 to find the nearest Area Agency on Aging to find out what they can do for your parents during a heat wave.
The bottom line
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