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DHS News July 2012  

Keeping Seniors Healthy in Soaring Temperatures

In Pittsburgh, the first six months of 2012 were the warmest on record, and July was especially sweltering. While hot weather can be fun for swimming and outdoor activities, it can also be dangerous, particularly for older adults. To protect some of Allegheny County’s most vulnerable individuals, the DHS Area Agency on Aging (AAA) offers a variety of services to ensure that local older adults have opportunities to avoid the heat and stay safe. 

Advanced Planning for Emergencies
While help is always available to seniors in need, the AAA also emphasizes personal preparedness and self-sufficiency. This approach is based on the idea that outside help may not always be immediately available in a widespread emergency, such as a power outage or flood, when emergency personnel and resources are strained and sometimes delayed in reaching individuals in need. Aging Waiver participants are required to have emergency backup plans as part of their Individual Service Plan (ISP). Other participants receiving DHS services are encouraged and assisted in developing, in advance, a personal emergency plan in the event that immediate assistance may not be available. DHS contracted providers are also required to file annual agency emergency plans with AAA.

Cooling Centers
All county residents ages 60 and older are able to visit county-funded senior centers during regular hours of operation to socialize and enjoy activities while taking refuge from the heat. On days that the heat index reaches 90 degrees, selected senior centers, where past experience has demonstrated usage, extend their hours to serve as a cooling center where attendees can receive food, water and shelter from the heat.

Personal Contact
In every emergency, care-managed consumers – those involved in programs such as OPTIONS Care Management or Aging Waiver – are contacted by care managers to determine their well-being or any needs that they may have. The most vulnerable homebound seniors are contacted first. During one recent heat emergency, more than 3000 seniors were contacted by care managers.

Protective Services
During heat emergencies, AAA and its providers respond to individual emergency cases of need involving older adults. Protective Services investigators have face-to-face visits with these individuals and can arrange for in-home or emergency shelter services, if needed.

“In June and July, Protective Services received over 240 reports of need for older adults at imminent risk, many of which were complicated by heat concerns,” said Don Grant, protective services supervisor, AAA. “It’s important for older adults, and concerned family members and friends, to know that they can contact AAA about someone in need at any time of day by calling 412-350-6905.”

Summer Weather Supplies
This summer, hundreds of homebound older adults received summer weather boxes filled with healthy foods and a small, battery-operated fan to help them through difficult weather. In addition, care management and protective service agencies were provided with supplies of summer weather boxes to distribute, as needed.

The Aging section of the DHS website is regularly updated with a list of cooling centers and tips to keep older adults safe during periods of excessive heat. This information is also delivered to community agencies that provide information and assistance to older adults.

Checking on Neighbors
DHS and AAA regularly encourage the public to participate by checking on older adult relatives, friends and neighbors.

The public can stay up to date on hot weather services for older adults by calling the SeniorLine at 412-350-5460 or visiting Cooling Tips web page

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