Heat-Related Illnesses in Nursing Homes
U.S. Climate Data reports that the average high temperature for Tampa in the summer is 90 degrees fahrenheit. With some days being cooler, there are also summer days in Tampa where it approaches 100 degrees outside. It is wonderful for nursing home patients to enjoy time outdoors throughout the day, but in the summer months it is vital that nursing home staff pay close attention to residents for any signs of heat illness. According to the Mayo Clinic, adults over the age of 65 have a harder time regulating their central nervous system and are less capable of coping with body temperature changes.
Signs of Heat Illness
There are different stages of heat-related illness. The first and least severe is heat cramps. The heat causes water loss and salt loss, which leads the muscles to spasm, particularly in the extremities. There can be lingering soreness from the muscle cramps that lasts for a day or two afterwards. When the body’s core temperature rises to between 101-104 degrees fahrenheit, a person will experience heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion if left untreated can lead to a heat stroke, which requires immediate medical attention. By this point a person’s temperature has risen to above 104 degrees and is suffering from symptoms that could prove fatal, such as a coma. When looking for signs of heat illness, pay attention to the following symptoms:
- Flushed skin;
- A core body temperature above normal;
- Rapid breathing and racing heart rate;
- Vomiting or nausea;
- Confusion, agitation, or an altered mental state;
- Fainting; and
- Lack of sweat.
Precautions that Nursing Homes Should Take in Hot Weather
Staff in a nursing home setting need to be aware when residents are outside in heat. Some residents are going to be more prone to heat illness because of medical conditions, such as heart disease, or medications, such as diuretics. A nursing home resident may also need help applying sunscreen or choosing lightweight clothes to wear outside that protect against the sun. Once they are outdoors a staff member should be checking in on them regularly to make sure they are not overheating. Hydration is also key to preventing heat illness and many elderly patients need to be reminded to drink fluids throughout the day. When the nursing home staff is neglectful, a resident is likely to overheat in the sun and may not be able to navigate themselves back to a cooler location. A staff member who is abusive may intentionally leave a resident outside to suffer in the heat, which will have the same health consequences.
Contact a Nursing Home Attorney If You Suspect Abuse or Neglect Led to Heat Stroke
The consequences of a heat illness can be mild for younger people who are independent enough to move themselves back inside to a cooler location. However, for elderly patients who already struggle to maintain homeostasis in their aging bodies, heat cramps can easily progress to a severe heat stroke and even be fatal. If you suspect your loved one was left unattended outside in the Tampa sun by nursing home staff who were either neglectful or abusive, it is critical you speak to a qualified Tampa nursing home abuse attorney. Schedule a free consultation with an attorney at Kohn Law by calling 813-428-8504 today.