Importance of Heat Safety for the Elderly

By: Anna-Lysa Gayle Email
By: Anna-Lysa Gayle Email

HARRISONBURG -- With this month being Elder Abuse Awareness Month, it's a danger that many forget to consider.

"The heat is exhausting and we have very little to exhaust," said Marian Cattanach, a local senior citizen.

With temperatures reaching close to 90 degrees on Wednesday, there were more reasons to be concerned about senior citizens.

"As the body gets older, it just does not modify itself to exposure to heat very well," said Stephen Phillips, the medical director at Rockingham Memorial Hospital.

Phillips said he's seen a lot of elderly people go to the emergency room for heat related illnesses.

Cattanach had some advice for other seniors.

"Do as little as possible, that is right. Drink nice cold drinks and take it easy," said Cattanach.

Dr. Phillips said Cattanach has the right idea.

"It's very important to stay hydrated and to stay in a cool place. Drinking cool water is a good thing generally speaking, avoid alcohol or caffeinated beverages and if you get to a place that is air conditioned, it's very helpful," said Dr. Phillips.

Dr. Phillips fears the worst for senior citizens who do not stay hydrated.

"Getting very ill and ending up in the hospital with a severe illness or even death," said Dr. Phillips.

In the meantime, while she's staying inside and away from the heat, Cattanach has hobbies to keep her occupied.

"I do watch the birds and I do crossword puzzles," said Cattanach.

According to experts, more than 40 percent of heat related deaths happen among people ages 65 and older.

If you are a senior citizen looking for somewhere to stay cool, Dr. Phillips recommends going to the mall, the library or an air conditioned church.
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