Extra precautions needed for elderly during hot summer months

Sally Goodell, 75, takes Midge for an afternoon walk Wednesday in El Centro.
Wednesday, July 19, 2017

EL CENTRO – El Centro resident Sally Goodell, 75, walked home after finishing her afternoon exercise route in the neighborhood. Although her husband usually walks with her, she said he stayed home because outside temperatures were in the lower 100s and it was too hot for him. 

According to Goodell, they just stay indoors when the temperature is unbearable. But as the sun sets on the horizon and the temperature drops, that’s when Goodell begins her walk in the neighborhood. Accompanying her is her dog, Midge, who she keeps on a leash.
As she almost reached home, Goodell called her husband using a hand-held two-way radio. She said,“We’re going to eat some fruit for dinner. I drink a lot of water.” 


In Imperial Valley, dehydration is a major factor affecting the senior population. Using caution to keep senior citizens and the elderly healthy and comfortable during the extreme three-digit temperatures in the summer months is of paramount importance, according to the Area Agency on Aging. 


Rosie Blankenship was recently appointed Acting Public Administrator and the director of Imperial County Area Agency on Aging when Norma Saikhon retired July 6 of this year. 


Blankenship said the elderly and senior citizens face a number of difficulties during the hot summer months in Imperial Valley with hot temperatures at times soaring to the 120s.


Finances. According to Blankenship, senior citizens have to juggle their limited finances for food/nutrition, medication, and payment for care services. Additional summer costs include higher electric bills for air conditioning and air conditioning appliances. 


Especially affected are those in the lower income bracket who are on a fixed income from Social Security benefits, she said. Blankenship urged caregivers to  ensure seniors are receiving well balanced meals and are drinking plenty of fluids or water. Try to avoid alcohol because it dehydrates the body, she said.


Furthermore, older people don’t sweat like young people do, according to Blankenship. As they get older, medications they take for ailments such as dementia, poor blood circulation, diabetes, and any chronic illness, compounds the problem. 


“Because they don’t sweat, their internal body temperature increases. And as a result, you see more and more heat-related illnesses with the senior population,” said Blankenship. She said to make sure air filters for air conditioning systems are regularly changed to provide good air flow.


Transportation. Imperial Valley’s elderly population is mostly concentrated in El Centro where social services are are readily accessible. If they live close to these services, they often walk, she said, but during the summer, this becomes difficult. “This can become a problem, because if it’s too hot, then they’re not walking to get the services they need.” 


“We are able to provide free transportation to seniors (and their caregivers) to congregate at meal sites,” Blankenship explained. “It’s a curb-to-curb service provided by IVT Ride (Imperial Valley Transportation).” This allows the elderly, in addition to receiving meals, a time for socialization. 


Unfortunately, funding for transportation to the grocery store and to their medical appointments is not currently included, Blankenship said. Other organizations such as Molina Healthcare and Covered California try to assist, but the need is great. “You see the increase in ailments among the senior population, because they lack transportation or someone to take them to receive the care that they need,” she said. 


Medication. Blankenship warned that tranquilizers and diuretics are medications that dehydrate the body. Tranquilizers calm seniors down and may inhibit expression that they need water or are hungry, so she cautioned to keep watch on the elderly and take note if they are constantly sleeping, nauseated or vomiting – signs of dehydration. 


“We just need to be diligent in taking care of our senior population. They’re the ones who once took care of us,” Blankenship said.