Nursing home abuse

Heat-Related Illnesses

Hot Weather Injury Risks For Nursing Home Patients

July 10, 2019 by Carrie Capouellez

Hot weather is hazardous, and senior citizens are particularly prone to its dangers, including heat-related illness. Elderly heat stroke and heat exhaustion can have devastating consequences. You may think that since most nursing home residents are sedentary, how can they overheat? During the summer months when temperatures can rise into triple digits, elderly people who go outside or become overheated indoors are especially at risk and react negatively to high-temperatures.

Why Seniors Are So Vulnerable to Heat-Related Illness

A University of Chicago Medical Center study found 40% of heat-related fatalities in the U.S. were among people over 65 years of age. But why are the elderly so vulnerable to heat-related health issues?

  1. The ability to notice changes in one’s body temperature decreases with age.
  2. Many seniors have underlying health conditions that make them less able to adapt to heat.
  3. Many medicines seniors take can contribute to dehydration.
  4. Age-related changes to the skin, such as poor blood circulation and inefficient sweat glands, can reduce the body’s ability to regulate temperature.

In a nursing home, heat-related health issues arise most often due to dehydration. It is important for older people to drink plenty of water even if they do not feel thirsty. Also, drinking alcoholic and/or caffeinated beverages can exaggerate dehydration, not help it.

If you suspect someone is suffering from a heat-related illness:

The warning signs of heat-related illness (also called hyperthermia) can include dizziness, nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, fainting, and breathing problems; and help should be sought immediately with any of these symptoms. You should call 911 if you suspect heatstroke. But what else can you do while waiting for first responders to arrive?

  • Get the person out of the heat and into a shady, cool place. Urge them to lie down.
  • If the person can swallow safely, offer fluids such as water and fruit or vegetable juices, but not alcohol or caffeine.
  • Apply a cold, wet cloth to the wrists, neck, armpits, and groin. These are places where blood passes close to the surface of the skin, and a cold cloth can help cool the blood.
  • Encourage the person to shower, bathe, or sponge off with cool water if it is safe to do so.

Philadelphia Elder Law Attorneys

Our experienced trial attorneys work on cases involving medical injuries. If your loved one was injured or killed in an overheating incident in a nursing home or long-term care facility, we can help. Contact us today.

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