By Nora de Cárdenas, Co-Owner and Managing Director, Visiting Angels
As temperatures and the humidity soar, it is time for everyone in elder care New Jersey to take extra precautions to avoid heat related illnesses. The human body responds to hot weather by increasing blood flow to the skin and sweating. The evaporating sweat carries away excess body heat to help maintain a normal body temperature. When the weather is especially hot, our bodies sweat more and work harder to keep a normal temperature. The combination of high humidity and high temperatures slows down the evaporation of sweat making it difficult for the body to regulate its internal thermometer.
The American Geriatrics Society (“AGS”) estimates that 200 Americans, mostly 50 and older, die of heat related health problems each year.1 Older adults are at higher risk for heat related illnesses for three reasons:
- Physiological changes that occur with age;
- Older adults are likely to have chronic illnesses; and
- They are more likely to be taking several different medications.2
Physiological changes that occur as part of the natural aging process reduce the body’s ability to adjust to summer heat. Older adults, for example, are less likely to perceive excess heat. Making matters worse, they perspire less, which hinders the body’s ability to cool itself. Seniors are also less likely to experience thirst, even when they are in the initial stages of dehydration and their bodies have lost dangerous amounts of water.
Very high temperatures and humidity place an extra burden on the body in its attempt to maintain a normal internal temperature. Chronic conditions such as heart disease, circulatory problems, diabetes or a previous stroke may further upset the body’s normal response mechanism to hot weather and make these persons even more vulnerable to heat related illnesses. Finally, some medications interfere with the body’s natural ability to adjust to the summer heat. For example, some medicines impede thermoregulation, while others can increase metabolic heat production.
It is important, however, to continue to take prescribed medication and discuss possible problems with a physician.
It is very important to keep in mind that temperatures do not have to be very high to cause problems in older adults. Temperatures in the low 90-degree range can be very hazardous for seniors.
Because they may not feel hot even when the temperature skyrockets, older adults should have a network (family, friend, caregiver) that monitors them closely and regularly checks both the outdoor and their indoor room temperatures.
In addition to providing the extra care that may become necessary during these hot summer months, you can have peace of mind knowing that Visiting Angels offers safety, security and joyful companionship to seniors, the convalescing, the disabled, and those who are simply in need of occasional help. Its “Angels” are all carefully screened, bonded and insured certified health care professionals (CNAs/CHHAs).
Hourly to live-in senior home care assistance is available, wherever “home” may be (including any health care facility) throughout Mercer and Burlington counties. Visiting Angels’ home care services allows families to spend more mutually rewarding and meaningful time with loved ones and also provide comfort to those who face the challenge of long-distance caregiving.
1 Source: The American Geriatrics Society. June 26, 2008, <http://www.americangeriatrics.org/news/hot_weather072606PF.shtml>
2 Source: Scott C. Sheridan, Ph.D., associate professor, geography, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio; John B.Murphy, M.D., associate director, division of geriatrics, Brown University, Providence, R.I.; July 2007 International Journal of Biometeorology
Article originally published in Burlington County Woman, August 2008