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DHS News July 2011

pdf.gif July 2011 DHS Newsletter

When temperatures soar, AAA works to keep older adults cool and safe

The warm months of summer can be an enjoyable time of year for many Allegheny County residents, but for older adults, summer temperatures can lead to serious health conditions such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and/or dehydration. Older adults can be vulnerable, particularly when they don’t have air conditioning, fans or other adequate cooling systems in their homes.

With soaring temperatures scorching every area of Allegheny County, the DHS Area Agency on Aging (AAA) and its contracted provider agencies have been helping to ensure the safety of older residents this summer. In their outreach, they offered places for older adults to cool down, delivered bottles of water to senior centers, offered emergency transportation to cooling centers, called vulnerable older adults at home, encouraged community involvement, and provided cooling tips to older adults and the public.

Senior centers offer refuge from the heat
County-funded senior centers are always available during their regular hours of operation for older adults to find refuge from the heat. Larger centers are normally open eight hours daily, Monday through Friday. In general, smaller satellite centers may be open four hours a day with lunch available.

When temperatures become too extreme, some county-funded senior centers have offered extended operating hours Monday through Friday and on weekends, based on the centers’ determination of need in their communities.

Contacting older adults
Beyond extending hours of operation at designated senior centers, AAA and its contracted provider agencies have maintained contact with approximately 800 older adults who are registered for care management and can benefit from extra contact. Care managers will respond to emergency needs as they arise, making sure that the seniors are safe and remain comfortable.

In addition, the AAA home delivered meals program assures that the people delivering meals to approximately 1,600 older adults will have contact with those receiving this service.

Community involvement
AAA also encourages residents to be particularly mindful of older adults during extreme temperatures.

“We are suggesting that anyone who may know of an older person living alone, pay a visit to that person,” said Mildred Morrison, AAA administrator. “Not all of our elderly citizens are registered for care management in our system, so it becomes our collective responsibility as a community to make sure that their needs are being met during times of soaring temperatures and high humidity, particularly those who may be frail and do not have air conditioning.”

The following tips are offered to those who may want to visit an older neighbor, friend or relative:

When visiting an elderly neighbor, offer a glass of water or some other non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverage, and sit with them as they drink it.

Also, check for breathing difficulty or other signs of distress, such as swelling of the ankles or disorientation. Seek medical attention, if needed, or simply call a medical professional for advice.

Check to see that window air conditioning units are operating. If there is no air conditioning, make sure that there is good cross-ventilation, preferably aided by fans. If the elderly resident is not eating because of lack of appetite, try offering light protein-laden foods, such as fully cooked eggs, cottage cheese or lentils.

If the person resists visits, encourage them to agree to a few telephone calls each day, but pay attention to whether the person sounds alert, and if they can tell you which medicines they have taken. If the older person is willing, invite them to stay with you for a few days until the difficult weather passes.

Encourage the elderly resident to visit a shopping mall, house of worship, library or other air conditioned location that is open to the public.

Staying cool tips
Tips and information related to staying cool during the hot days of summer
Information includes tips on staying cool, warning signs for heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and what to do if you see these signs and symptoms in an older adult or any individual.
Complete list of all Allegheny County senior centers

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