Mark L. Karno
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Nursing homes must protect residents from Summer heat

When adult daughters and sons arrange for their parents to live in a Chicago, Illinois, nursing home, they presume that the basics, like food, water and temperature control will be taken care of by the staff of the facility. Any failure on the part of the staff to take care of those basics, which are essential to the health of the facility’s residents, can constitute nursing home abuse.

Temperature control, including keeping residents cool in the Summer, is critical because older adults, age 65 and over, are more susceptible to heat stress than younger adults are. This susceptibility includes an inability to adjust to sudden changes in temperature like those that can happen in the months of June, July, and August. Older adults are also more likely than younger adults to have chronic medical conditions. Those conditions affect their bodies’ normal responses to heat. The prescription medications that they take can also affect their ability to perspire and regulate bodily temperature.

The most serious of heat-related illnesses is heat stroke. It happens when a person is unable to control his or her body’s temperature, which then rises rapidly. The person is unable to sweat and correspondingly unable to cool down, resulting in a health-endangering situation. Heat stroke can involve body temperature reaching 106 degrees or higher in less than 15 minutes. It can result in permanent disability or death if emergency treatment is not administered very quickly.

Signs of heat stroke can include red, dry, hot skin, an inability to sweat, dizziness and nausea. Of course, there are additional signs, which family members and nursing home staff should be trained to recognize. When they are trained, they can react if a loved one faces heat stroke while in a nursing home. Of course, it is also critical for the staff of the nursing home to make sure that all parts of the facility are properly cooled so that their residents don’t risk suffering heat stroke in the first place.

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