By Jo Ellen Bleavins of BMA Management, Ltd.
With the Summer of 2013 set to start here in Illinois shortly after midnight on Friday, I wanted to remind you that high temperatures, especially when combined with high humidity levels, should be of concern to all of us, especially older adults.
Fortunately, the forecast for Friday calls for the high temperature to be right around historical averages unlike last year when we were in the midst of a heat wave as summer arrived.
Whether you are in the Chicago area, central or southern Illinois, temperatures can reach dangerous levels here in Illinois.
Looking at information from the National Weather Service, the highest temperatures on record in Springfield, our State Capital, for June is 104, which happened in 1934; for July is 112 in 1954; and for August is 108 in 1934.
In 1936, the temperature in Moline, home of our Heritage Woods of Moline affordable assisted living community, and in Urbana, home of our Prairie Winds affordable assisted living community, topped 100 degrees on 13 days in July.
In Charleston, home of our Heritage Woods of Charleston affordable assisted living community, and in Danville, home of our Bowman Estates affordable assisted living community, the temperature topped 100 degrees on 15 days in July.
In Decatur, home of our Eagle Ridge affordable assisted living community, the temperature in July of 1936 climbed above 100 degrees on 17 days.
This was the summer of “The Dust Bowl” that hit the Plains, Upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions of our country. Nationally, 5,000 people died from the heat that summer.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns us that older adults are more at risk from illness and injury due to the heat for three key reasons:
Older adults do not adjust well to sudden changes in temperature.
Older adults are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat.
Older adults are more likely to be taking prescription medications that impair the body’s ability to regulate temperature or inhibits perspiration.
Young children and individuals who are sick or overweight also are among those most at risk.
The CDC encourages us to visit at risk older adults at least twice a day and watch for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Other tips for coping with the summer heat and sun include the following:
Drink plenty of water, regardless of activity, even if you are not thirsty. (Be sure to check with your/their doctor if your/their doctor has limited the amount of fluid you/they drink or if you/they are taking water pills.)
Avoid heavy meals and alcohol.
Keep the sunscreen handy and use it. As you age, your skin becomes more sensitive to the sun. Choose a sunscreen that offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. It should also be a broadband UV spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB light. Be sure to apply generously.
Shield your skin and eyes from the harmful rays be wearing protective clothing such as light weight and light color fabrics, hats and sun glasses.
Take cool baths or showers. Sponge baths, ice bags and wet towels also can be helpful.
Visit air-conditioned restaurants and malls.
Air conditioning can do more than help you stay cool; it can be a lifesaver.
During heat emergencies, older adults can contact their local Area Agency on Aging or the Senior HelpLine at 800-252-8966 for assistance in locating buildings that serve as Cooling Centers.
To cool off during heat emergencies, we also invite you to visit a BMA Management community near you. For a map of where our assisted living, senior living and memory care communities are located, go to http://goo.gl/maps/thTfB
One of the included amenities that takes on so much added importance at our communities when heat warnings and heat advisories are in effect is air conditioning. The cost of utilities such as air conditioning is included in the monthly fee.
In addition, in our assisted living and memory care communities, certified nursing assistants are on-duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Conducting a daily welfare check on each resident is just one of their responsibilities.
An emergency alert system comes standard with each of our assisted living apartments, and three restaurant-style meals are also among the included services. Snacks and beverages are available whenever the dining room is not open.
In particular during the summer season, be sure to watch for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion can include heavy sweating, rapid breathing and a pulse that is fast and weak. To help overcome heat exhaustion, drink cool non-alcoholic beverages; rest; take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath, seek an air-conditioned environment; and wear light weight clothing.
Heat stroke is a life-threatening Illinois in which a person’s body temperature can rise above 106 degrees in minutes. Symptoms can include red, hot and dry skin (no sweating); a rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headaches; dizziness; nausea; confusion; and unconsciousness.
If you suspect that someone might be experiencing heat stroke, call for medical attention as soon as possible. Until medical help arrives, get the person to a shady area and cool the victim using whatever methods you can such as a cool tub of water, a cool shower, cool water from a garden hose, or a cool sponge bath.
For more information on heat and older adults and tips on what you can do to protect yourself and others, here are a couple of websites you might want to visit:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institutes for Health
Jo Ellen Bleavins is a Registered Nurses and the Senior Vice President of Operations for BMA Management, LTD.
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and let us know.
“BMA Management is the leading provider of assisted living in Illinois
and one of the 20 largest providers of assisted living in the United States.”