Seniors face high health risks in heat wave

July 6, 2010 5:03:47 PM PDT
The Health Department warned that the high temperatures of the New York area's sweltering heat wave can be dangerous, especially for the elderly. Their health and limited mobility puts them at higher risk of problems related to this heat.

Doctors at Jersey City Medical Center saw five elderly patients on Tuesday who were suffering from heat exhaustion and heat stroke. One 92-year-old woman in Philadelphia died.

The emergency room is prepared for more elderly heat illness victims as this oppressive heat wears on throughout the week.

"Because of changes in their skin, elderly people are less likely to sense they are getting too hot. They are also less likely to drink enough fluids," Michael Bessette, M.D. Jersey City Medical Center said.

Larry Eccleston, Jersey City Director of Senior Affairs at Joseph Connors Senior Center, said that elderly people may be avoiding simple precautions that can prevent common health risks.

"Seniors have a bad habit. They don't run their air conditioning for financial reasons," said Eccleston.

Some seniors don't have a choice. They simply don't have air conditioning to turn on.

That's why Jersey City is urging the elderly to come to senior centers, libraries, or anywhere to avoid sitting in a roasting hot apartment.

City officials are urging the rest of us to check on our elderly neighbors. Doctors say if your elderly relative or friend still acts confused and lethargic, even after he or she cools off, you should bring them to a hospital.