Dad Is Not Careful With the Heat
"My 80-year-old father doesn’t have air conditioning, and he rejects all efforts on our (myself and my siblings) part to install it in even just one room. We’ve tried and tried to get him to accept some form of air conditioning, yet he refuses. We even offer to have him stay at our homes on extremely hot days, which also doesn’t work.
Since we have failed at our attempts to provide a cool environment for our Dad, we wonder what we can do to keep him safe in extreme heat. What must we worry about, and what steps should we take the next time it gets so very hot?"
It’s smart of you to think about your father’s comfort and safety on these very hot days. You’re accurate in your assessment of the situation. He is at risk, and should take measures to protect himself.
The reason your father’s at greater risk is primarily due to his age. As we age, all of the organs in our bodies begin to function just a bit less efficiently. It’s hard to accept for most of us, but the fact is, the body is likely at its peak performance in our early adulthood. By the time someone is 80 years old, the kidney, heart, lung, brain, liver and more simply don’t function at peak capacity. Therefore, adjustments need to be made to accommodate a less-efficient body.
Add the fact that older adults often live with one or two chronic illnesses, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. With some conditions, the medication a person takes for such conditions interferes with the body’s ability to regulate temperature. This is true of anti-psychotics, barbiturates, antihistamines and others. This makes those individuals at higher risk of heat stress.
When it’s extremely warm, keep an eye on your father. Take him to cool environments such as restaurants, malls or a library. A cold shower is quite effective at cooling the body. It may seem obvious, but light, loose-fitting clothing is a must.
Consider a portable room air conditioner. You can simply stop over, plop it down, and plug it in. They don’t need to be placed in a window, and they can make him much more comfortable. There are even ones you can wear around your neck. Without central air conditioning, I’d definitely check out some of those options. One may be just the thing.
Another important thing during high heat days is to consume water, assuming your father doesn’t have fluid restrictions.
When you do see your father, watch for signs of overheating. Headaches, cold and pale skin, nausea, and dizziness are all symptoms to evaluate. I recommend you access the Center for Disease Control (CDC) chart for Warning Signs of Heat-Related Illness. https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/warning.html.
The most important thing you can do is what you’re already doing, and that is paying attention. Your alertness to a potential problem will help you avoid an unfortunate situation.
I hope you have a wonderful and safe summer.
Family Caregiving Advice Column
Written by CEO, Mary Haynor, this newsletter is packed with useful tips, resources and practices that will make the lives of family caregivers easier.Learn More...
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