I spoke to a friend in Virginia today. She was complaining about the hundred plus temperatures that the East Coast is currently experiencing. I feel lucky to be in Kansas City where it is a comfortable 85 degrees.
Yet, high heat and humidity are an inevitable part of summer. Most of us complain a little and then get on with our lives. But, high heat and humidity can be lethal to the elderly, especially to those taking medications for conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease depression and allergies.
Nursing homes should take steps during heat waves to keep residents cool and comfortable and to prevent heat-related illnesses such as heat rash or prickly heat, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Many elderly residents have lowered temperature sensitivity and may not know that they are overheating and these symptoms may be hard to recognize in the elderly. For these reasons, nursing homes are responsible for keeping their residents cool and comfortable and caregivers must recognize the signs of heat illness and provide appropriate medical care when needed.
During heat waves, air conditioning should be kept on. If no air conditioning is available, windows should be opened and fans should be brought in to keep residents cool. Plenty of water and other beverages should be made available to all residents, particularly those taking medication. Many elderly people have a decreased sense of thirst, so caregivers should make sure that residents drink enough to stay hydrated.