Extreme Heat and Senior Safety

Extreme heat and senior safety

The Northeast’s weather forecast for this last weekend of June warns of a heat wave with high humidity. When heat waves arrive, it is important to be prepared and aware of heat-related illness warning signs and the steps one can take to prevent and treat this dangerous situation. This is especially true for older adults, who are more susceptible to illness related to these hot conditions. According to a Center for Disease Control article,

  • Older adults do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature.
  • They are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat.
  • They are more likely to take prescription medicines that affect the body’s ability to control its temperature or sweat.

More than 600 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year. These deaths are often preventable with proper care and preparedness. Below are resources and tips for keeping yourself and others safe in extreme-heat situations…

CDC Caretaker Checklist –

This is a brief, but important checklist for caregivers. Remember to keep a close eye on those in your care by visiting them at least twice a day, and ask yourself these questions:

  • Are they drinking enough water?
  • Do they have access to air conditioning?
  • Do they know how to keep cool?
  • Do they show any signs of heat stress?

UC Davis older adult heat-wave precautions:

  • Stay in the coolest place as much as possible, and avoid too much activity. Usually the coolest part of a house is on the first floor. Outdoors, in the shade, may be cooler than indoors, especially if a breeze comes up.
  • Use the air conditioner! Many elderly people avoid turning it on to save money. If there is no air conditioner or the power has gone out, seniors should try to spend at least a few hours in an air-conditioned public place, such as a library, shopping mall, movie theater or restaurant.
  • Eat lightly and drink plenty of fluids. Avoid alcohol and drinks with caffeine. Don’t take salt tablets unless advised to do so by a doctor.
  • Make use of hand-held, battery-operated fans and misters. These inexpensive gadgets usually can be found in many stores. They can be life-savers during hot weather, especially if the power goes out.
  • Rub wet washcloths over your wrists, face, and back of neck. For a quicker cool-down, wrap ice cubes in a washcloth or use packs of frozen vegetables or blue cooler packs.
  • Full heat safety article.

The Alzheimer’s Association recommends you:

  • Make a specific plan to check in on the person living with Alzheimer’s.
  • Pay attention at night when high temperatures create difficult sleeping conditions, heightening anxiety and agitation, and exacerbating sleep issues.
  • Prepare for behavioral changes and remove behavioral triggers by addressing the individual’s physical needs related to the heat, then tending to their emotional needs.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Stay indoors and out of the sun.
  • Stay informed and check forecasts and air quality conditions.

Heat-related illness infographic –

Extreme heat and warning signs graphic.