PRR – Additional Needs – Extreme Heat and Cold
The elderly can be vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather. During heat waves, senior citizens are highly susceptible to heat strokes and make up the majority of heat-related deaths. Many factors put them at an increased risk such having poorer circulation or having increased heat sensitivity due to side effects of medications. Many people often do not realize their symptoms when they are dehydrated and in a life-threatening condition. Fortunately, you can easily prevent these circumstances!
Here are some ways you can stay safe in hot weather conditions:
- Stay in an air-conditioned building and dress lightly
- If you do not have air-conditioning, try to stay indoors in well-ventilated public spaces such as shopping malls or libraries.
- If you are outside, stay in the shade as much as possible.
- Drink more water than usual and do not wait until you are thirsty. Being dehydrated decreases your body’s natural cooling processes.
- Steer clear of caffeinated beverages and alcohol. These drinks can quickly lead to dehydration.
- Stay with friends or family in the meantime.
View a helpful Infographic HERE!
In cold weather conditions, seniors tend to lose body heat faster than young individuals. This puts them at an increased risk of hypothermia, a condition in which one’s body temperature becomes too low, putting one at a higher risk for heart and organ failure, along with other life-threatening complications.
Here are some ways you can stay safe in extreme cold conditions:
- Stay indoors and make sure the room temperature is at least 70 degrees.
- Close room doors. Keep windows and curtains closed.
- Dress warmly—wear hats and scarves, even indoors and especially when you are sleeping.
- Stay hydrated.
- Stay with friends or family. If possible, ask them to check on you during cold weather.
Watch for the signs of hypothermia in yourself, too. You might become confused if your body temperature gets very low. Talk to your family and friends about the warning signs so they can look out for you.
Early signs of hypothermia:
- Cold feet and hands
- Puffy or swollen face
- Pale skin
- Shivering (in some cases the person with hypothermia does not shiver)
- Slower than normal speech or slurring words
- Acting sleepy
- Being angry or confused
Later signs of hypothermia:
- Moving slowly, trouble walking, or being clumsy
- Stiff and jerky arm or leg movements
- Slow heartbeat
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Blacking out or losing consciousness
Note that over-the-counter thermometers cannot detect hypothermia.
If you need help preparing your home environment for extreme weather conditions:
California Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) assists eligible low-income households with their heating and cooling energy costs, bill payment assistance, energy crisis assistance, weatherization and energy-related home repairs. Visit the following website to see if you are eligible: https://www.benefits.gov/benefit/1540
Responding to extreme temperatures really relies on having the right items on hand and installed in your house. If you live in an area where extreme heat or cold occurs, you need to talk to someone in your support system if you need help and figure out a time line to get these items if you don’t already have them. In terms of extreme heat, you need a window air conditioner with proper installment and insulation, air conditioning duct checks for holes and proper insulation, window reflectors to reflect heat outside, the correct kind of blinds/curtains to keep heat out, correctly insulated windows and doors, having plenty of water on hand, and emergency kits. For extreme cold, some recommendations are similar in terms of the importance of insulation. Other important considerations include caulking and weather stripping to keep out the cold and methods to keeping pipes from freezing. Supplies should be gathered in case there is no power for multiple days. For those with special circumstances, special precautions should be taken, again, in terms of what your abilities are versus what you would need help with. Forming a plan that details what steps take for both yourself and your loved ones/caretakers is really critical to the responding process. The final part of responding is recognizing the signs of extreme temperature conditions such as frostbite, hypothermia, and heat illness. For those with special needs who live alone, knowing the signs and symptoms and who to call when they appear is critical.
Recovering from extreme temperatures really revolves around communication with your loved ones/caretakers, staying informed, treating any illnesses/conditions brought on by the event, and making reparations to your home. For sensitive populations, communication is key. Reaching out to those you know who may need help and reaching out for help if you are the one who needs it is really important following extreme temperatures. Make sure that you are a healthy and if you aren’t, seek appropriate help. That may be fixing pipes that are frozen, treating symptoms of hypothermia, etc. Extreme temperatures are not a quick event; they are intense and ongoing. Preparation is more important than ever with these populations.