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Summer Heat and Seniors

Summer Heat and Seniors - Staying Safe During Times of Excessive Heat

by Don Drake, Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. 6.21.24

Connelly Law Offices, Ltd.
Attorney RJ Connelly III

"Yesterday was the first day of summer here in Southern New England, and if the weather forecasters are correct, we are wrapping up the first, but surely not the last, heat wave of summer 2024," said professional fiduciary and certified elder law Attorney RJ Connelly III. "Excessive heat presents a significant health risk, particularly for older adults and individuals with underlying health conditions. It is imperative to take preventive measures and seek immediate relief when experiencing overheating to mitigate the potential for heat-related illnesses."

Older adults are especially susceptible to severe weather conditions due to their reduced capacity to acclimate to abrupt temperature changes and their higher probability of managing chronic medical conditions and taking medications that may impede the body's ability to regulate temperature and perspiration.

"During the summer, older individuals confront a notably elevated susceptibility to heat-related illnesses, collectively called hyperthermia," said Attorney Connelly. "Hyperthermia encompasses a range of conditions such as heat stroke, heat edema (manifesting as swelling in the ankles and feet due to heat), heat syncope (characterized by sudden dizziness post-exercise in hot weather), heat cramps, and heat exhaustion."

Connelly Law Offices, Ltd.
Be aware during the summer heat with elderly loved ones

The National Institute on Aging cites several health-related factors that can increase the risk of heat-related illnesses. These factors include age-related changes to the skin, heart, lung, and kidney diseases, high blood pressure, reduced sweating caused by medications, taking multiple drugs, being overweight or underweight, alcohol consumption, dehydration, and certain lifestyle factors. Understanding these risk factors is crucial for preventing heat-related illnesses and potentially saving lives.

Staying Safe in Hot Weather

Here are some tips from the National Institute on Aging to reduce your risk of heat-related illness:

  1. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, fruit or vegetable juices, or drinks with electrolytes. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages, especially if your doctor has advised you to limit your liquid intake.

  2. If you don't have air conditioning or fans at home, keep your living space as cool as possible. Minimize oven use, keep shades closed during the hottest part of the day, and open windows at night.

  3. Spend time in air-conditioned places during the midday heat, such as shopping malls, movie theaters, libraries, senior centers, or a friend's home. Check with your local health department or city for information about air-conditioned shelters.

  4. If you need help getting to a cooler place, seek assistance from friends, relatives, religious groups, senior centers, or local transportation services.

  5. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing made from natural fabrics like cotton to stay cool.

  6. Avoid outdoor activities in extreme heat and consider staying active indoors.

  7. If you must go outside, limit your time and avoid crowded places. Plan outdoor trips during non-rush-hour times.

  8. Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher, wear protective clothing, a hat, and sunglasses, and reapply sunscreen regularly. If you get sunburned, stay out of the sun until your skin heals, and use cool cloths and moisturizers.

  9. Consult your doctor to see if any medications increase the risk of overheating or sunburn.

AARP's website provided a report on medications that can make it more difficult for the body to handle the summer heat. The article can be read by clicking this link: 8 Types of Medications That Can Make It Harder to Handle the Heat.

Rhode Island's Ombudsman Office

Connelly Law Offices, Ltd.
Kathleen Heren

As temperatures rise, nursing home operators face the intricate task of upholding their residents' safety while maintaining business operations during intense heat. In Southern New England, numerous families of elderly individuals receiving care have questions regarding the protective measures adopted by facilities during the summer heat.

Fortunately, most facilities deliver professional and exceptional care to their residents during such periods. Moreover, here in Rhode Island, the Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman also provides oversight and guidance to facilities for addressing these concerns. Below are reminders extended by the Ombudsman's office to facilities.

Cooling Rooms - Each facility must have a large cooling room where residents can go when their rooms and corridors become hot.

Respiratory Care - Any resident with a severe respiratory condition must have an air-conditioned room. This may require moving the resident to a private room

Fans - There should be large fans in the corridors which can cool them.

Staying Cool - Curtains should be closed during the day to keep the heat out

Connelly Law Offices, Ltd.
Taking care of our seniors during summer heat

Resident Safety - It is not a resident's right to remain in an extremely hot room without a fan. You may have to contact the family to come in and help you move them to a cooler area. You could also obtain an order from their Physician.

Safety of Fans - Fans brought in by families are not always in the best condition. Check all cords for fraying. Watch that sockets are not overloaded.

Hydration - Please be sure you are hydrating the residents. Residents are not going to consume water only. Have popsicle puddings, ice cream and sherbet available. If families bring in any hydrating food, please have them write the resident's name on the item.

Non-verbal Residents - [Our] biggest concern is the resident who cannot ask for something to drink. That resident is at a greater risk on 3-11 and 11 to 7. Sometimes it may become necessary to place that resident on intake and output to ensure they are not dehydrating.

Air conditioners from Families - If you allow families to bring in air conditioners, be sure maintenance installs the unit. Don't forget that if the resident's roommate doesn’t want the air conditioner, there will be a problem installing it.

Kathleen Heren, Rhode Island's Long-Term Care Ombudsman, will be available to facility directors, staff, and families of those in care. If any issues arise during this period, her office is committed to being accessible and providing support. You can reach them at 401-785-3340.

A Final Word

"As we age, our bodies become less capable of handling high temperatures and humidity, and older individuals, indoors and outdoors, are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses during hot weather," stated Attorney Connelly. "If you start experiencing symptoms like headache, confusion, dizziness, or nausea, seeking medical help at a doctor's office or the emergency room is essential. Regarding our long-term care facilities here in Rhode Island, I'm thankful that most directors and staff have a wealth of experience and professionalism and demonstrate exceptional empathy for those under their care. Additionally, we have an Ombudsman's office that monitors facility operations and provides proactive advice and support to address any issues that may arise."

Connelly Law Offices, Ltd.

Please note that the information provided in this blog is not intended to and should not be construed as legal, financial, or medical advice. The content, materials, and information presented in this blog are solely for general informational purposes and may not be the most up-to-date information available regarding legal, financial, or medical matters. This blog may also contain links to other third-party websites that are included for the convenience of the reader or user. Please note that Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. does not necessarily recommend or endorse the contents of such third-party sites. If you have any particular legal matters, financial concerns, or medical issues, we strongly advise you to consult your attorney, professional fiduciary advisor, or medical provider.

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