According to the CDC, there were more than 7,000 heat related deaths in the United States between 1999 and 2009. The median age of the victims of heat related deaths was 65. Seniors are at particular risk for heat stroke and heat exhaustion because the circulatory systems of elderly people do not work as well as the circulatory systems of younger adults. Seniors don't sweat as effectively, and certain medical conditions common to the elderly – as well as certain medications – can make them more sensitive to the heat. This can make air conditioning in the summer a necessity for your older relatives, rather than a luxury. If there's a senior in your life that you're worried about, these tips can help you help them stay cool and healthy throughout the worst of the summer heat.
Seek Out Energy Assistance
For seniors on fixed income, just paying for the electricity to run an air conditioner every day during the summer can be a huge hurdle. Often, seniors are reluctant to turn the air conditioner on, even in the midst of a heat wave, because of concerns about being able to pay the bill. Low-income seniors may also find themselves in the unhappy position of having to choose between paying the electric bill and paying for other necessities like food or medication. Being forced into this kind of choice can end with seniors having their power disconnected during critical heat waves in the summer.
You can help a senior relative afford to cool their home and keep their electricity on by helping them find assistance to pay their energy bills. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federally funded social program that helps pay energy bills for people with qualifying incomes. Many states also have their own energy assistance programs. Some, like Florida, even have programs designed specifically to help elderly residents.
Volunteer to do Maintenance
For seniors with arthritis or mobility issues, routine maintenance tasks can become difficult or impossible. But failing to perform routine maintenance on an air conditioner can result in an air conditioner that fails to cool the home effectively. Or, in a worst-case scenario, this failure can result in an air conditioner that breaks down completely, necessitating expensive repairs or replacements that your senior relative may not be able to afford.
You can help by volunteering to do some light maintenance yourself. Stop by monthly to change the air conditioner filter. At the start of the season, before the air conditioner is turned on for the first time, check the outdoor part of the unit and make sure that it's clear of any dirt and debris. Check the vents inside the house to be sure that they're free of rust and dust. Your help in keeping up the air conditioner can prevent a costly and possibly dangerous breakdown. For more information about air conditioners look at sites like http://www.certifiedappliancelv.com/.
Prepare for Storms
Even with the electric bill paid and the air conditioner in perfect working order, there is still a risk. Warm-weather storms that cause power outages are a factor in a significant number of heat stroke cases. You can help your senior relatives be prepared for the storm by bringing them a supply of batteries and battery operated fans and misters so that they can stay cool until the electricity comes back on.
You may also need to help your senior relative reset their air conditioner after a power outage – sometimes losing power can interfere with the circuit and prevent the AC from kicking on. First, turn the air conditioner off at the thermostat. Flip the circuit for the air conditioner off and then back on. Then leave the air thermostat turned off for another 30 minutes before turning it back to cool. During this time, the internal breaker in the air conditioner should have reset itself, and the air conditioner should work normally again.
Because seniors are especially vulnerable to heat-related illnesses, it's important for their loved ones to make sure that they get the help they need during the hot summer months. Stepping in to contact an assistance program, change a filter, or reset a circuit may save the life of someone you love.