It doesn’t matter that this very informative article on home care safety is written in January, the elderly are at risk from heat related illnesses at any time, not just summer! The term ‘heat related illnesses’ covers everything from a hot flush where the patient needs to sit down somewhere cool and have a sip of water, all the way through to heat stroke and the immediate need for hospitalization.
It is not just the age of the individual that is a cause for concern but other factors as well. Health conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease, high blood pressure and being overweight can make things worse. An individual’s medication is another important factor – diuretics, tranquilizers and some heart and blood pressure medication don’t help the situation.
Luckily for an elderly person receiving home care they will have a caregiver with them who is aware of current medication and health issues. Also, the caregiver should be aware of environmental conditions, the weather, and other circumstances where the senior might succumb to a heat illness.
In the home situations could arise during the following circumstances:
- A bath could be too hot and then the senior might remain in the steamy hot bathroom afterwards, with no ventilation, whilst tending to other hygiene issues.
- Kitchens can become too warm to work in especially if windows are not open and it is warm outside.
- Driving around in summer in a car with a hot breeze blowing on you all day will dehydrate you enough to be a problem.
- Obviously, outside on a hot summers day doing too much exercise in the sun, even just walking, will be enough to cause problems.
Heat related illnesses are easy to spot, so home care agencies should make sure their caregivers are trained, at least, to recognize the basic signs. These include:
- Swelling in the legs and feet
- Profuse sweating
- Lack of sweat
- Loss of coordination
Even though the above signs and symptoms can easily be confused with other conditions it is the patients history, where and what they have been doing recently, that will point to a heat related problem.