Hot Weather Injury Risks For Nursing Home Patients

elderly wandering risks

Hot Weather Poses Extra Health Risks for Nursing Home Residents

Even for residents who are sedentary, spending time outdoors or active indoors in small amounts can help decrease recovery times and promote independence. However, during the summer months when temperatures sometimes skyrocket into the dangerous digits, elderly who travel outdoors or are without the appropriate indoor cooling areas, can become especially at risk and negatively react to high-temperature exposures.

Because aging and certain medications can complicate the body’s ability to regulate temperatures, problems such as dehydration, fluid retention, heat stress, and heat stroke, and cardiac-related events leading to death may present more often.

To identify any heat-related illness, nursing home staff should watch out for:

  • High body temperature (103°F or higher)
  • Heavy sweating
  • Hot, red, dry, or damp skin OR cold, pale, and clammy skin
  • Fast, strong pulse OR fast, weak pulse
  • Headache
  • Dizziness, nausea, or vomiting
  • Confusion OR losing consciousness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness and listlessness OR overall weakness

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says heat-related illnesses are largely preventable. Keeping residents hydrated, out of intense heat, and protected by emergency information systems and with adequate cooling and air condition supplies will all be necessary steps for homes to take during the warmer weather season.

Wandering Heightens in Summer Months for Those with Dementia

Nursing home residents living with behavioral problems such as dementia tend to naturally wander and aimlessly move about their environment without regard to their safety. This group of people is often hurt or killed during these preventable attempts to exit, especially during the hot weather months when they are left to beat the heat and stay cool on their own.

There are strategies to help prevent wandering and elopement starting with a fully trained, attentive, and equipped staff. And, nursing home facilities should have a set of safety standards to follow that will identify patients at risk to wander and follow these cautionary steps when residents are required to stay inside during hot weather events.

  • Identify and watch patients closely when there is an environmental factor that may trigger a desire to exit to outdoor spaces.
  • Make sure there is adequate staff to meet the needs of all residents.
  • Allow a patient ampler time or means to exercise, explore, and interact to offset wandering triggers.
  • Place alarm systems on doors and windows.
  • Plan for and pay attention to weather advisories and alerts.

When confronted, eloping patients may respond aggressively towards staff, and be unwilling to cooperate or return to safe areas of the nursing home. If the issue is unresolved, recurring incidents of wandering may occur.

Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorneys

Our Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Levin & Perconti have handled numerous cases in which loved ones have wandered and found injured or deceased because of an elopement event impacted by weather events such as the summer heat.

If you have a family member with dementia who was not looked after appropriately by nursing home staff, please contact our Chicago nursing home attorneys to discuss your situation and let us help you.

Our consultations are always free, confidential, and handled by one of our skilled attorneys. Click here to fill out an online request form or call us toll-free at 1-877-374-1417 or 312-332-2872.

Also read: National Survey Evidence Shows Behavioral Health Services Inadequate in Most U.S. Nursing Homes

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