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By: Presbyterian Senior Living on

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How to Be Prepared for A Heat Wave This Summer

Health & Aging

prepared heat wave summerYour grandma is hot. And she's not the only hot grandma out there.

Heat waves all over the country place older individuals - regardless of living situation - in harm’s way each and every summer. In fact, according to a study by Harvard School of Public Health, it only takes an increase of 1.8 degrees to cause a rise in death rates for older adults who have a chronic health condition. This means, even a small increase in temperature can put your loved one in danger. A heat wave is defined as an extended period of excessive heat, most often 10 degrees above average, along with stifling humidity.

If just a mere 1.8 degree increase will raise the mortality rate, can you imagine what a spike in temperature that severe would do?

Who’s Most at Risk During a Heat Wave?

Everyone can be affected by heat. However, the most commonly affected individuals are the old and the young, because their bodies are more vulnerable. These other factors can also increase a person’s risk:

  • People who take certain medications, especially those that affect temperature control or alter sweating.
  • People who have suffered a stroke or are suffering from Parkinson’s, which of course limits their mobility.
  • People over the age of 75.
  • People with any chronic health condition, such as breathing or heart issues.

Educate Yourself About Warnings: What do They Mean?

Local weather newscasters will often warn the public about upcoming heat waves that could cause problems for older individuals. Keep up with these, especially if your loved one falls into one of the categories above. The explanation on what each one means as defined by the American Red Cross is listed below for your convenience:

  • Excessive Heat Watch: This watch means that conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event to either meet or exceed local Excessive Heat Warnings within the next 24 to 72 hours.
  • Heat Advisory: This means that the forecast is predicting temperatures to meet the local advisory criteria for a duration of 1 to 2 days, and includes daytime highs between 100 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Excessive Heath Warning: This means the forecast predicts temperatures to exceed locally defined warning criteria for the duration of two days and predicts daytime high temperatures of anywhere from 105 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

What Can You Do to Keep Your Loved One Safe?

Here are some practical ways to help your loved one survive and thrive even during unseasonably hot temperatures:

  • Advise your loved one to stay inside.
  • Make sure their air conditioning is working properly, and if it isn’t, get them out of that environment until you can either have their AC repaired or replaced.
  • Encourage your loved one to wear lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing.
  • Make sure your loved one’s fridge is well stocked with beverages so they can stay hydrated. Let them know it’s best to avoid drinks containing alcohol or caffeine though. Teach them to take small sips of water frequently instead of trying to drink a lot of water at once. Aim for an intake 1.7 liters of water a day. 
  • Encourage your loved one to incorporate fruit into their meals as a way to consume additional water. 
  • Check on your loved one often. When you know the temperature is going to rise, call or stop by and make sure you loved one is safe.

The dangers of excessive heat are nothing to take lightly. Heat is a legitimate danger, so learning all you can about it and educating your loved ones on how to cope is the best way to counteract the negative effects of a summer heat wave.

Pennsylvanians Authorities Taking Heat Seriously

For some residents of certain counties in Pennsylvania and Delaware, local governments are stepping in and offering assistance in the form of air conditioning units, fans, and centers which offer cooler temperatures in which to beat the heat.

With temperatures predicted to be in the 90's this week, make sure you and your loved ones are prepared to manage the heat, and take advantage of any assistance offered by local governments.

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About Presbyterian Senior Living

Presbyterian Senior Living is a not-for-profit organization, fulfilling its charitable purpose and mission by providing high quality retirement choices, healthcare services and affordable residential living options for people 55 and older for more than 85 years. Headquartered in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, Presbyterian Senior Living provides services to approximately 6,000 seniors in 30 locations in the mid-Atlantic region of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and Delaware.

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