Keeping the Elderly Safe During the 4th of July

FIREWORKS   

One of the most popular 4th of July activities may not be safe for elderly people in nursing homes. According to an article on Nebraska’s KOLN 1011 channel, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department has warned that air pollution may affect elderly populations and others with certain respiratory and heart conditions.

The article reports that the LLCHD “observed high levels of particulate air pollution from the night of July 3 through the morning of July 5, resulting in the Air Quality Index (AQI) reaching unhealthy levels.”

Furthermore, the article interviews Gary Bergstrom who issued the following warning:

Gary Bergstrom, Air Quality Program Supervisor with the LLCHD, said those most affected are youth, the elderly and those sensitive individuals with respiratory or heart conditions. Those at risk should avoid extensive physical activity outdoors or remain indoors with windows and doors closed. Those who experience health effects should contact a medical care provider.

Bergstrom said most people will not be affected, but warned that even a few hours of exposure to high levels of particles may aggravate lung disease, cause asthma attacks and acute bronchitis, and increase the chances of respiratory infection. For people with heart disease, short-term exposures to high levels of particle pollution have been linked to angina, heart attacks and arrhythmia.

In addition to air pollution, the loud sounds that fireworks produce could be frightening for elderly people in nursing homes. In order to keep them safe, it would be beneficial to keep them inside away from loud noises.  It also may not be safe for elderly people to be around sparklers which may lead to burns due to poor response time and unsteady hands.

You can read the full article here.

 

EXTREME TEMPERATURES

With extreme temperatures comes the increased risk of elderly people suffering in the heat. They are much more likely to be susceptible to dehydration because of the temperatures and other risk factors such as side effects from different medications.

According to the Mayo Clinic, thirst is not always an indicator of dehydration. The following are symptoms of dehydration in the elderly:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Less frequent urination
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

It is extremely important to get medical care for a loved one if you notice that your loved one has had diarrhea for more than 24 hours, has bloody or black stools, if they are disoriented, irritable, or less active than normal, or cannot keep fluids down.

The article also reports on the complications of dehydration:

  • Heat injury.If you don’t drink enough fluids when you’re exercising vigorously and perspiring heavily, you may end up with a heat injury, ranging in severity from mild heat cramps to heat exhaustion or potentially life-threatening heatstroke.
  • Urinary and kidney problems.Prolonged or repeated bouts of dehydration can cause urinary tract infections, kidney stones and even kidney failure.
  • Electrolytes — such as potassium and sodium — help carry electrical signals from cell to cell. If your electrolytes are out of balance, the normal electrical messages can become mixed up, which can lead to involuntary muscle contractions and sometimes to a loss of consciousness.
  • Low blood volume shock (hypovolemic shock).This is one of the most serious, and sometimes life-threatening, complications of dehydration. It occurs when low blood volume causes a drop in blood pressure and a drop in the amount of oxygen in your body.

These are all very serious complications that could be the result of dehydration. If your loved one has experienced any of these, you should speak with your loved one’s doctor. It is the nursing homes responsibility to make sure your loved one is safe and hydrated.

You can read the full article here.

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