Vancouver Island is often celebrated as the Canadian Mediterranean. But as temperatures rise in summer weather, it’s important to keep in mind that the increasing summer temperatures pose heat risks to seniors. Heat waves are linked to an increase in heat stroke and heart attacks in elderly seniors. Therefore, we must take some precautions to prevent heat exhaustion in our parents and senior loved ones.
Why is The Risk So High for Canadians?
Climate Change. Environment Canada’s climate change report predicts that climate change will cause heat waves in Canada to “become more frequent and more intense” in the near future. When I think about climate change, I usually think about heat because I can feel it. Unlike rising sea levels or melting polar ice caps, urban heat waves are already killing Canadians.
Age. Because older people are more susceptible to heat, age compounds the risk. Plus, Canada’s population is rapidly aging, so summers are getting much more difficult for more seniors. Heat builds up in sick and elderly people over time. So the longer the heat wave, the more deadly it becomes.
Heat Stroke: A Risk to Elders
We’re not talking about extremes here. We’re talking about slight increases in temperature that can cause heat stress. According to Health Canada, even a 1 degree Celsius increase in temperature during the summer can increase death rates for elderly people who have a chronic health condition.
Antonella Zanobetti, a research scientist at Harvard University studies the effects of temperature on mortality. She says: “High day to day variability in summer temperatures shortens life expectancy.” She adds: “This variability can be harmful for susceptible people.”
Susceptible people include those with chronic illness. These illnesses increase the death rate for seniors.
- Chronic Lung Disease by 3.7%
- Diabetes by 4%
- Heart Attack by 3.8%
- Heart Failure Sufferers by 2.8%
What you should do to minimize heat risks
To ensure that you are ready when the weather gets hot, make sure you prepare.
- check local weather forecasts and heat alerts so you know when to take extra care;
- make sure your loved one’s air conditioner is in working condition; or find ways to keep a home cool
- find solutions in your community, such as cooling locations that respect physical distancing;
- make a plan on how you or others will check in on loved ones when it gets hot;
- ask a doctor or pharmacist if medications or health conditions increase the health risk in the heat; and
- learn the signs of heat illness and follow the safety tips found on Health Canada’s website.
We want to promote efforts to reduce heat risks. Our caregivers can help identify signs of heat illness that could be missed over the phone. Serenity Home Care helps maintain and improve your loved one’s health in summer. Call us to find out how you can arrange for regular visits for your loved one during very hot days.