June 28

Remember to Take the Summer Heat Seriously

By Jo Ellen Bleavins of Gardant Management Solutions

The lazy, hazy days of summer, which officially started last week, can bring periods of extreme heat and humidity.

In Springfield, where the Illinois State Capitol is located, the highest temperatures documented by the National Weather Service for June is 104, which happened in 1934; for July is 112 in 1954; and for August is 108, which occurred 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 on 13 days in July.

In Charleston, home of our Heritage Woods of Charleston affordable assisted living community, and in Danville, home of Bowman Estates affordable assisted living, 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.

1936 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 summer heat.

Older adults are much more prone to the effects of heat and dehydration for the following reasons because their body does not adjust well to sudden changes in temperature; they may have a chronic medical condition that changes their normal body response to heat; and they may be taking prescription medications that impair their body’s ability to regulate its temperature or inhibit perspiration.

Young children and individuals who are sick or overweight also are among those most at risk.

Tips for coping with the summer heat and sun include the following:

  • Stay in air conditioned buildings as much as possible.
  • Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device.
  • Drink more water than usual; do not wait until you are thirsty to drink. (Be sure to check with your doctor if your doctor has limited the amount of fluid you drink or if you are taking water pills.)
  • Avoid heavy meals and alcohol. Limit the amount of caffeinated beverages such as tea and coffee that you drink.
  • 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 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 of the sun. Wear sun glasses.
  • Wear loose, light weight and light-colored clothing.
  • Take cool baths or showers. Sponge baths, ice bags and wet towels also can be helpful.
  • Install air conditioning or large fans to keep air moving. Check air conditioning ducts for proper insulation. Weather-strip your doors and window sills to keep cool air inside.
  • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades or awnings. Install temporary window reflectors such as aluminum foiled-covered cardboard to reflect heat back outside.
  • Visit air-conditioned restaurants and malls.
  • Know the signs of hyperthermia and heat stroke. Seek medical help immediately if you think that you or someone else have the signs of a heat-related illness.

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 cook shower, bath or sponge bath; seek an air conditioned environment; and wear light-weight clothing.

Heat stroke is a life threatening illness 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 unconsciuousness.

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.

To cool off during heat emergencies, seek a Cooling Center near you. You can also visit a Gardant community near you. For a map of where our assisted living, senior living and memory care communities are located Click Here.

One of the included amenities that takes on so much added importance at our communities when heat warnings and 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. They work under the direction of a licensed nurse. 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.

During the summer when the temperatures are high, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages us to visit at risk older adults at least twice a day and to be sure to watch for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

For more information on heat and older adults and tips on what you can do the protect yourself and others, here are a couple of websites you might want to visit:

Centers for Disease Control and Protection

National Institutes for Health

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