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Why summer heat can be a menace for seniors

While summer can be a great time to enjoy some fun in the sun, for senior citizens summer may be far from the happiest time of the year. Rising temperatures can pose serious health risks to New Mexico seniors, and although many people want their older loved ones to enjoy some sunlight, the truth is that great care must be taken with seniors and outdoor heat, particularly seniors who live in nursing homes.

The Centers for Disease Control describe why seniors are more susceptible to heat. In general, older people do not handle abrupt changes in temperature as well as younger people. Seniors in nursing homes may also suffer problems with heat because many of them will have chronic medical problems that alter their body’s ability to respond to heat. Also, the effects of prescription medication may change how a person perspires. Prescription drugs may also make it harder for a body to properly regulate its temperature.

Additionally, as AgingCare.com points out, seniors experiencing serious heat-related maladies like heatstroke may act disoriented or confused. Many seniors will already have age-related disorientation, but heat-related disorientation is a danger sign, as seniors with heatstroke could collapse and pass out. A relative or a caregiver may mistake heat-related disorientation for natural age-related confusion and not take action until it is too late.

Nursing homes should be very careful about allowing seniors to be outside on summer days. Since many nursing home residents utilize wheelchairs, they cannot move very quickly to avoid heat. Some residents may not be able to move their wheelchairs on their own and require help to move their wheelchairs back indoors. Failure to keep seniors out of hot environments can lead to serious declines in health and even death.

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