We’re no strangers to hot weather here in South Carolina. It’s a fact of life.
It’s also a fact that when the temperatures and humidity reach extremes, it can make people ill or even cause death. But heat-related deaths and illness are preventable.
Heat can be deadly
DHEC encourages everyone to understand the dangers of extreme heat. Heatstroke, the most serious of all heat-related illnesses, can cause damage to your body, especially your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. The damage gets worse the longer treatment is delayed, increasing your risk of serious complications or death.
It is particularly important to inform older people about the perils of heat and to keep careful watch over those who might be under your care. People aged 65 years or older are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature.
Protect yourself during hot weather
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people in this category heed the following guidance:
- Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. Contact your local health department or locate an air-conditioned shelter in your area.
- Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device during an extreme heat event.
- Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
- Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.
- Don’t use the stove or oven to cook—it will make you and your house hotter.
- Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
- Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
- Check the local news for health and safety updates.
- Seek medical care immediately if you have, or someone you know has, symptoms of heat-related illness like muscle cramps, headaches, nausea or vomiting.
Visit the CDC website for more information on extreme heat related your health. You also can find information there on how heat affects the elderly as well as other groups of people.
By Michele James, MSW, Director, DHEC Division of Healthy Aging
November is National Family Caregivers Month, a great time to honor and support the 65 million Americans who unselfishly provide care for elderly and/or disabled loved ones who have chronic conditions ranging from cancer, stroke, or arthritis to Alzheimer’s disease, which is the among the top ten leading causes of death in the United States. It often happens that a spouse or an adult child ends up serving as the primary caregiver, gradually taking on more responsibility as a senior’s needs change. Family caregivers assist with personal care, provide transportation, act as medical advocates, and offer emotional support for those who cannot live independently, and they do this while managing the demands of their personal lives, their jobs, and their families.
Here are some great ways to express your thanks and gratitude to the caregivers in your family:
- Tell them in words. They can’t read our minds! Take time for a conversation or to write a letter expressing your appreciation of the important role they play.
- Listen. Caregiving can create a sense of isolation. Ask how the caregiver is doing. Check in regularly.
- Ask how you can help. Most caregivers have a wish list when it comes to balancing their caregiving duties with their work, family and personal responsibilities—but it can be hard for them to ask for help.
- Enlist everyone. Encourage the caregiver to share information about your loved one’s needs. Brainstorm solutions to spread out the load.
- Bring in a professional. If the family conversation isn’t going well, or family members are stumped about what to do, it’s worth it to bring in outside help.
- Arrange for support services. If family members have the time and ability to help out with care tasks, set up a schedule. If family can’t do it all, help the caregiver locate professional services.
- Hire in-home care. Arranging for home care services can be the very best way to lighten the caregiver’s workload and stress level, while providing peace of mind for everyone in the family. Families who share the cost of these services often find that in-home care is an affordable solution—even an economic advantage if it allows caregivers to continue in their own careers.
These people, so vital to our nation’s senior care system and to their loved ones, often put their own physical, emotional and financial wellbeing at risk. Sometimes, before anyone notices what’s happening, the senior’s care needs increase so much that the wellbeing of the caregiving family member suffers. They may neglect their own health and wellness routine. They may cut back on their hours at work or leave their job entirely. They are at higher risk of depression and other stress-related conditions. Caregivers’ stress levels and associated mental and physical decline can affect the quality of care that they are able to provide which, in turn, can result in increased suffering for the already vulnerable care recipient. For more information, visit the National Council on Aging or Right At Home.