Awareness crucial for seniors, caregivers as warmer temperatures arrive

By: 
RYAN PHILLIPS
DTL EDITOR

Crisp spring air quickly gave wave to suffocating summer humidity this week, as temperatures climbed to near-record highs across much of Mississippi.

The true dog days of summer are approaching and emergency officials are urging the elderly and their caregivers to be aware of both the temperature outside and their own bodily response to the heat.

Shedrick Hogan, EMS assistant director for OCH Regional Medical Center, said the best recommendation he can give for people of all ages during hot summer months is to stay hydrated.

This is particularly important for senior citizens, who should be aware of the symptoms, such as feeling faint, feeling lightheaded or feeling sick to the stomach.

“Some of the elderly population don’t run air conditioning because they don’t have one or can’t afford one, so we try to put them in contact with folks who can provide fans,” Hogan said. “Even the heat related emergencies can kind of be subject to some kind of medication and depress their system.”

Another way experts recommended checking for dehydration in the elderly is to check skin turgor, or the elasticity of the skin. Dehydration results in skin taking longer to return to its usual position after being pinched or pulled.

May marks the beginning of a crucial period for heat safety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that over its last 10-year reporting period, 7,621 people in the U.S. died of heat-related illnesses from the months of May to September, which factors out to 94 percent of heat-related deaths during that time.

Hogan said heat can quickly turn life-threatening for older people, with many not knowing they are too overheated before it is too late.

“We go out and see them sometimes and they will still be dressed with long sleeves on, no fan going,” Hogan said. “We run on different calls and they will be so hot the body is just cooking and our first thing is to get them out of the house and get them cooled down as possible.”

Hogan then said they encourage neighborhoods to form a network of support, where the elderly and those living alone can be checked on.

“Things like making sure they have something to drink, make sure fans are running,” Hogan said. “Any time we can get someone to check on them, it’s almost like a buddy system.”

In the event of becoming overheated, Hogan and other experts recommend putting a cold compress or cold towel or even get some ice cubes in a towel, then placing the towel behind the neck, under the arms, or in the groin area - areas crucial to blood circulation.

“Those main areas are where we try to cool them down to start circulating back out through the body,” Hogan said. “A lot of times we will get a cool rag to lay on top of the head, most of the heat is going to filter out through the top of your head.”

For all ages, Hogan recommended staying hydrated with water before anything other drink.

“The big thing is if they need anything from us, all they have to do is call,” Hogan said.

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