Health experts remind people to check on elderly, disabled in extreme heat

With heat indices up to 115 degrees, it’s nothing to fool around with. It’s especially dangerous for the most vulnerable in our community.

Heatwaves are a leading cause of extreme weather-related deaths in the nation according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But certain populations like people with disabilities, the very young or the elderly may have higher risks for heat-related illnesses or death.

Every single day, Mobile Meals of La Crosse delivers hot and cold meals to people with disabilities and the elderly.

“This will be our third month doing this,” said Kelley Criswell, shift supervisor for HealthDirect Pharmacy.

As Criswell goes door-to-door with Bailey VanVoorhees, they meet people that might not have much interaction otherwise.

“If they answer the door we strike up a conversation. If they don’t answer, there’s a little tidbit on what to do with their meal,” Criswell said.

It’s especially important to be checking in regularly with more vulnerable people during severe weather, especially if the power goes out.

“With it going out, the AC could stop working, no fans. And with it getting hot, or even when we had the polar vortex, anything could happen,” Criswell said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says older adults might not adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature. That’s because they might have a chronic medical condition or are likely to take prescription medication that affects the body’s ability to regulate temperature.

“In the elderly, as with the young, their health can change quickly,” said Mary Kron, R.N. at Mayo Clinic Health System.

Mayo Clinic Health System offers at-home hospice care.

“On occasion, we work with clients that do not have air conditioning in their home,” Kron said.

When there is a heat advisory, all the nurses are notified right away so they can communicate with high-risk patients.

“We make sure that family knows about the heat warning, that they have fans in the home, that they have plenty of fluid and to check on them frequently,” Kron said.

They might get headaches, have weakness, fatigue, nausea or have dark-colored urine. You should get help immediately if you notice these symptoms.

“Especially confusion in the elderly. That’s just a critical sign to make sure they’re calling us and that we have a nurse available to evaluate them,” Kron said.

Mayo Clinic Health System also recommends that the elderly have a phone and water source nearby. They should also have access to any kind of mobility aid like a walker or wheelchair nearby in case they need to get help right away.

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