ParentCare » Vol. 21

Caregiving Now!

Research, Trends, and Products

By Erin Hansen

Cardiac Resources

More than half a million Americans die of heart attacks every year. Here are a few good resources to have on hand for useful cardiac information. As they say, what you learn now may save your life later.

American Heart Association
800/242-8721
http://americanheart.org

Mended Hearts Inc.
888/432-7899
http://mendedhearts.org

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
301/592-8573

For guidelines on controlling cholesterol, visit the NHLBI’s cholesterol education program at http://nhlbi.nih.gov/about/ncep

The Heat and the Elderly

With summer just around the corner, it’s important to remind ourselves that, although warm summer days can be lovely, hot summer days can be harmful or even fatal to the elderly.

image001-copyApproximately 371 deaths occur in the US every year due to heat stroke. Many other deaths occur from other causes as a result of high temperatures. Nearly half of all victims are 65 years and older. Prolonged heat exposure takes a toll on the body, compromising its ability to cool itself. Older adults are most susceptible to this due to the aging process ~ an older body is less efficient in reacting to the heat.

Fans, the most common “weapon” against the heat used by elders, are not protective against heat-related illness when conditions reach 90 degrees and 35% humidity.

Due to the state of the economy, there is a greater danger for heat-related illnesses among the elderly as rolling blackouts hit households throughout the state. Skyrocketing energy costs most fiercely affect seniors with monthly incomes less than $1,000. Due to budget constraints and in effort to cut utility costs, seniors are less likely to use air conditioners, thus increasing the risk for heatstroke.
Although hot weather places everyone in danger, factors that increase the risk for heat-related illness include:

Advanced age
Isolation or social circumstances
Heart, lung, or kidney disease
Medication
High blood pressure or diabetes
High level apartment living
Long term residency care
Danger Signs: How to Spot When It Is Too Hot

After prolonged heat exposure, consult a doctor as these symptoms could indicate a heat-related illness:

Headache
Nausea
Vomiting

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body gets too hot. These are common symptoms:

Thirst
Weakness
Dizziness
Profuse sweating
Cold and clammy skin
Normal or slightly high temperature

If an elder is experiencing these conditions, move him/her into an air-conditioned environment or a cool, shaded area. Replace fluids such as water and juice. AVOID alcohol and caffeine. Recommend a cool shower or bath. Encourage him/her to rest in a cool area.

Heatstroke occurs when the body temperature reaches 105 degrees within minutes and can cause severe brain damage. It is a medical emergency and is usually fatal. If you suspect someone is suffering from this condition, call 911 immediately. Heatstroke symptoms include:

Confusion
Faintness
Strong, rapid pulse
Dry, flushed skin
Lack of sweating
Bizarre behavior
Ideas for Making a Difference in an Elder’s Life During Summer

Organize a “Friendly Phone Call” System: Neighbors make phone calls to check on elderly neighbors during hot weather spells.

Establish an Emergency Contact List: Create a list of neighbors willing to offer help to the elderly in your neighborhood during an emergency.

Set up Friendly Visits: Check to see if neighbors are taking precautions or experiencing dangerous symptoms during hot weather.

Organize Rotating Early Evening Socials: Plan gatherings at homes around the neighborhood so that air conditioners can be given a break at several homes while residents are out socializing.

Help Out with Transportation: Offer a ride to or from an errand to save time spent outdoors.

If energy costs are a factor, take an elderly neighbor to an air-conditioned public facility, such as a senior center, movie theatre, public library, or shopping mall.

Establish a Caring Neighborhood Group in Your Community: Work with neighbors to provide extra help to the elderly in your neighborhood.

Make a friendly visit, keep an eye out for strangers, refer elderly neighbors to various services in the community, you decide what your group can do to help!

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