Checking In On The Elderly: Why It's So Important When The Temperatures Rise
As we swelter through another round of triple digit temperatures, you may hear your friendly neighborhood meteorologists remind you about checking on the very young, the very old, and the pets. It's a no-brainer for the kiddos- obviously if you have very young children, you'll want to make sure they are supervised and hydrated if playing outside. The pets- well, that should be another given, especially for those animals you would normally leave outside in comfortable weather. But what about the elderly? These days, many more senior citizens are living on their own and are capable of being self sufficient. People are living longer, and the quality of life continues to increase. However, there is still a need to make sure our parents and grandparents are checked upon.
The fact is, more than half of all heat-related deaths occur in people over the age of 65.
And why is that? First, let's talk about the reasons the elderly are susceptible to the heat. -For one thing, the older a person gets, the less sensitive they get to temperature changes. While we may complain about 95°, an older person may not feel that as being uncomfortable. -Many older adults are on medications, and many of these medications, while helpful for various conditions, impair the body's ability to regulate heat. Some prescriptions may even dehydrate the body, increasing the need for more water. -As we age, our bodies lose the ability to properly perspire. Since sweating is our bodies' natural way of cooling us down, it can become life-threatening when someone who is older is left in the heat- even for a short period of time. Something else to consider: back in the day... let's say the 1910's to the 1930's, there weren't as many older people around; there wasn't as much of a cause of concern during that time. Let's also not forget the co$t. Face it: energy is expensive. I love those fall and spring days when you can have the windows open... and I especially love opening up the energy bill and seeing how low it is during those times! But when the temps rise into the 100's, older residents on a fixed income may hesitate before reaching for the thermostat. It's a decision that could end up being fatal. So how can the younger generation help? For your older relatives and neighbors, make sure you check on them at least twice a day. Bring a cold drink to share, and look for signs of heat-related illness, such a exhaustion and nausea. Of course, make sure they check with their doctor frequently, especially if they are on medications. Tackling the energy factor is a tough one. For one thing, (and this is especially true if you are checking in on a neighbor, vs. a relative) you can't force someone to turn their a/c on more frequently. But you can encourage. It's also a good idea to check into the availability of senior centers in your area. Many senior centers (and even some churches) offer daytime activities and food service, all within the confines of a cool air-conditioned facility. Remember: not only does reaching out to those older friends and neighbors help them, but the act of kindness goes a long way. Let's help everyone stay cool this summer!
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