There are many reasons why the elderly and sick are particularly vulnerable to extreme temperatures. Our bodies change as we age and require more attention. The staff that care for older people need to make sure that the temperature in residents’ rooms and common areas is at safe and comfortable levels.
Older Individuals Often React to Temperature Due to Physical Vulnerabilities
Some reasons staff need to monitor the temperature inside assisted living facilities include:
Decrease in Circulation
As people age, the walls of their blood vessels get stiffer and cause a decrease in circulation. In addition, the fat layer under the skin gets thinner, making it more difficult to conserve heat.
Metabolic Responses to the Cold Are Slower
The body’s natural responses, like constricting blood vessels to keep the body temperature up, are slower.
When people have anemia, they don’t have enough red blood cells to deliver oxygen to tissues. It can cause the hands and feet to feel cold, along with other symptoms like shortness of breath or irregular heartbeat. The heart is often forced to work harder, which can have devastating consequences in elderly residents. This is one of the most serious ways that the elderly and sick are vulnerable to extreme heat and cold in assisted living facilities.
Medication Side Effects
Some medications carry side effects that make elderly assisted living facility residents feel colder. Beta-blockers, for example, can decrease the heart rate, which in turn reduces circulation in the feet and hands.
Diabetes can cause anemia and circulation problems. It can also cause a condition called peripheral neuropathy, which is nerve damage that prevents you from experiencing heat, cold, or even pain in your feet or hands.
Sweat Glands Atrophy
The elderly do not sweat as much, which leads to less evaporative cooling. However, the sweat glands atrophy is only partially caused by aging. It is also caused by changes in activity levels, as assisted living facility residents often get little physical activity.
What can make some of these changes especially dangerous for the elderly is that they may not feel colder, and yet their body is working hard to regulate their body temperature.
Common Signs of Hypothermia
Hypothermia is when the body is losing heat faster than it can produce it. While normal body temperature is around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, hypothermia can occur when the body temperature falls below 95.
The elderly and sick are vulnerable to extreme heat and cold in assisted living facilities, so hypothermia is one of the most important elements of cold weather safety to look out for.
Common signs of hypothermia include:
- Weak pulse
- Slow and shallow breathing
- Slurred speech
- Low energy or extreme fatigue
- Lack of coordination
- Loss of consciousness
If your loved one exhibits signs of hypothermia, make sure they receive proper medical attention. The documented visit can serve to support a medical negligence case, depending on the circumstances.
Signs of Heat Exhaustion
Signs of heat exhaustion in the elderly can develop suddenly or slowly over time. Some of the more common indicators of heat exhaustion are:
- Cool, moist skin
- Weak, rapid pulse
- Low blood pressure when standing
- Muscle cramps
These symptoms require medical attention. Documenting these symptoms can help support medical negligence claims.
Protecting Residents Against Extreme Heat and Cold in Assisted Living Facilities
Each facility has a responsibility to keep residents comfortable and healthy. Making sure that residents who are vulnerable to extreme heat and cold in assisted living facilities live in the proper conditions is important.
Maintaining a healthy body temperature is important for vulnerable older populations. The owners of the facility need to make sure their residents are either warm or cool enough.
During the warmer months, facility staff needs to check on residents frequently to:
- Look for the signs of heat exhaustion or heat stress.
- Ensure residents are drinking enough water.
- Ensure they have access to air conditioning.
- Plan for and pay attention to heat advisories and alerts.
During the colder months, the facility staff need to:
- Monitor closely for signs of cold or hypothermia.
- Ensure that rooms are being adequately heated.
- Pay attention to extreme weather advisories or alerts.
Facility administrators also need to ensure that the facilities are adequately staffed in order to closely monitor and provide for the needs of all residents. Understaffing is a major problem in many assisted living facilities and can cause staff to miss changes in condition, particularly in instances where the patient’s medication or condition does not make them feel hot or cold.
Pintas and Mullins Law Firm Can Help You
If someone you love suffered injuries due to extreme heat or cold in their assisted living facility, they may be entitled to compensation for their damages. For a free review of your case, contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm. Our team works on a contingency fee, which means we take nothing upfront and nothing out of pocket.
We do not receive payment until we win your case, which means that if you receive nothing, we receive nothing. For your free consultation, call today at (800) 842-6336.