Protecting Against Heat Stress in the Elderly

July 16, 2012 Updated Jul 16, 2012 at 7:58 PM EDT

By Kyla Igoe

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July 16, 2012 Updated Jul 16, 2012 at 7:58 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - When temperatures climb, some residents most effected by the heat are the elderly. The sizzling temperatures in Western New York can can take a toll on older family members and loved ones. With the mercury rising, organizations like Meals on Wheels and the area's cooling stations are on high alert during heat waves. Judy Marine has been a local volunteer for the past 23 years at Meals on Wheels. As a retired registered nurse, Marine knows how important her visits are to the elderly clients she serves.

"It makes a big difference because first of all they're getting good nutrition. Secondly, they know that five times a week someone is coming in and making sure they're OK," said Marine.

Experts encourage caregivers to pay extra attention to their elderly loved ones as the mercury rises, since it's more difficult to regulate body temperature with older age and many medications can interact with sun exposure. According the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention's website, "elderly people (that is, people aged 65 years and older) are more prone to heat stress than younger people for several reasons:

•Elderly people do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature.
•They are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat.
•They are more likely to take prescription medicines that impair the body's ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration."

"It's really important you're there with your elderly loved one and ask questions," said Rachel Rotach of the WNY Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. "Be sure to check in on them and see how they're doing. Are they showing signs of heat stroke or exhaustion? Sit down and have some water with them. Take simple steps"