As temperatures rise this summer, the Council on Aging of Buncombe County wants to help local seniors and persons with disabilities stay cool.
“A lot of times people don’t have enough money to cool their homes. Also, as you get older, your body doesn’t regulate temperature as well so it’s important to stay cool — it’s a safety issue,” says Zoe Trout, who is in charge of the local Council on Aging’s Heat Relief Program this year. The program itself began in 1986. (Scroll down to the end of this post for a full list of heat tips for the elderly and other at-risk individuals.)
Fans are available to any Buncombe County resident oder than 60 years old, or for people under 60 who have a disabling health condition. For air conditioners, the same stipulations apply except a person must also provide a doctor’s note.
Of the 152 fans and eight air conditioning units the local nonprofit purchased this year thanks to $3,459 grant from Progress Energy, Duke and Land-of-Sky Regional Council, 50 fans have been given out as of today, June 17. Last year, the agency gave out 241 fans and 19 air conditioners.
However, Trout says there are no small air conditioning units left to give out at this time, even though she has a waiting list of least five people who have requested one.
“We’d love to provide more, and it seems that Asheville is getting a lot hotter,” she says. “But I don’t have air conditioners for them.”
Trout explains the Heat Relief Program not only helps keep people cool, but it can also help keep bills down, too. When compared to the cost of having central air, fans and air conditioning units are far cheaper — an important factor, she says, for people who may be living on disability or a limited income.
However, to continue to provide these cooling appliances, Trout points to donations. Though the agency received about the same amount of grant money as they did last year, the price for air conditioning units has increased. Last year, the units were $88. This year, they’re priced at $112.
“We need more donations in order to provide more services,” she says, noting that more people will probably be requesting the emergency heat relief assistance as temperatures climb. “If we get funding, then we can buy more air conditioners.”
Donations can be made online by visiting the Council on Aging of Buncombe County donation page and selecting “Heat Assistance” from the drop-down menu. Checks can also be mailed to the nonprofit at 46 Sheffield Cr., Asheville, N.C. 28803.
Caitlin Byrd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 251-1333, ext. 140.
Heat Tips for the Elderly and Other at Risk Individuals
Elderly people (that is, people aged 65 years and older) are more prone to heat stress than younger people for several reasons:
• Elderly people do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature.
• They are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that upsets normal body responses
• They are more likely to take prescription medicines that impair the body’s ability to regulate
its temperature or that inhibit perspiration
You can follow these prevention tips to protect yourself from heat-related stress:
• Drink cool, nonalcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages. (If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask him how much you should drink when the weather is hot. Also, avoid extremely cold liquids because they can cause cramps.)
• Take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath.
• If possible, seek an air-conditioned environment.
• If you don’t have air conditioning, consider visiting an air-conditioned shopping mall or
public library to cool off.
• Keep warm areas ventilation if not cooled. Proper ventilation will promote adequate sweat
evaporation to cool the skin.
• Wear lightweight clothing.
• If possible, remain indoors in the heat of the day.
• Do not engage in strenuous activities.
• Sunblocks and sunscreens with a protection factor of 15 (SPF 15) can be very helpful when
one is exposed to extreme direct sunlight.
What You Can Do to Help Protect Elderly Relatives and Neighbors
If you have elderly relatives or neighbors, you can help them protect themselves from heat-related stress:
• Visit older adults at risk at least twice a day and watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
• Take them to air-conditioned locations if they have transportation problems.
• Make sure older adults have access to an electric fan whenever possible.
What You Can Do for Someone With Heat Stress
If you see any signs of severe heat stress, you may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency. Have someone call for immediate medical assistance while you begin cooling the affected person. Do the following:
• Get the person to a shady area.
• Cool the person rapidly, using whatever methods you can. For example, immerse the
person in a tub of cool water; place the person in a cool shower; spray the person with cool water from a garden hose; sponge the person with cool water; or if the humidity is low, wrap the person in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously.
• Monitor body temperature and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101°–102°F
• If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.
• Do not give the person alcohol to drink.
• Get medical assistance as soon as possible.
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the body loses its ability to sweat, and it is unable to cool down. Body temperatures rise to 106 ° F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.
Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke Warning signs vary but may include the following:
• An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F)
• Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
• Rapid, strong pulse
• Throbbing headache
Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids.
Signs and Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion Warning signs vary but may include the following:
• Heavy sweating
• Muscle Cramps
• Nausea or vomiting
• Skin: may be cool and moist
• Pulse rate: fast and weak
• Breathing: fast and shallow