Heat Wave 2021: British Columbians urged to monitor elderly in the community

B.C.’s extreme heat over the next several days has the province’s leading voice for seniors care and living providers urging everyone to monitor elderly family members, friends and neighbours. Environment Canada has issued a heat warning that is expected to begin Friday and continue through Tuesday, with temperatures exceeding 35 degrees in many parts of the province.

BC Care Providers Association (BCCPA) and EngAge BC is asking members of the public to check in with their elderly friends, relatives and neighbours to ensure they’re drinking plenty of water, staying in a cool place, and feeling well.

“The record-breaking heat is a concern for seniors living in the community, so it is therefore important to ensure vulnerable populations and the elderly are not succumbing to heat-related illnesses,” says BCCPA & EngAge BC CEO Terry Lake. “We strongly encourage British Columbians to check in with our elderly friends and family members, as they are particularly impacted by this uncomfortably warm weather.”

Extreme heat and poor air quality are can be dangerous for the elderly and those with respiratory issues. They’re at a greater risk for heat illness as their bodies can’t immediately adapt to sudden temperature changes. Seniors can be less sensitive to these changes and might not even realize they’re overheating.

If someone you know is exhibiting signs of heat illness that can’t be resolved by drinking water and cooling off, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Preventing heatstroke in seniors

Heatstroke is a serious medical condition that requires emergency attention. If left untreated, it can cause damage to the brain, heart and kidneys, and can be fatal.  Taking the following precautions can reduce the risk of heat illness among seniors.

  • Take note of the seniors’ health conditions and medications. Check if they’re taking any prescription drugs that could impair their ability to regulate body temperature.
  • Watch out for signs of overheating such as extreme thirst, dizziness, headache, nausea, cramps, fatigue, and cold, clammy skin. Overheating is not very dangerous on its own but can quickly lead to heatstroke. Symptoms of heatstroke include a body temperature of 104°F or higher, inflamed skin without sweating, rapid pulse, headache, nausea, dizziness and unconsciousness.
  • Minimize sun exposure. If it’s hot outside stay indoors in a cool, air-conditioned environment. Keep your home cool by blocking out the sun with blinds/solar curtains, and keeping windows open at night.
  • Dress appropriately. Wear light-colored clothing made of natural, breathable fabrics like cotton. Hats and scarves should be used to protect against the sun.
  • Stay hydrated by consuming enough water, juice, fruits and vegetables. Avoid alcoholic beverages, coffee and cola.
  • Exercise indoors on warm days. Seniors should stay active but avoid overexerting themselves.
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