Other Voices: Elderly, disabled at serious risk in smoky season
Heat and wildfire smoke can rapidly affect the elderly and those with disabilities. Prevention is the key. But if you don’t have air conditioning, what can you do?
• Stay in public facilities that are air-conditioned as much as possible. These include libraries, movie theaters, club houses and restaurants.
• Use public transportation with air conditioning, such as Gold Country Stage and Telecare Transportation.
• Move air with fans and dress lightly.
• Drink plenty of water and other non-sugar, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages. Keep a beverage container by you at all times and don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. Drink two glasses of cool, but not very cold, fluids each hour. Of course, check with your doctor if you take water pills or have a health condition which limits your intake of fluids.
• Ask a neighbor or friend to walk your dog, or schedule the walks early in the morning and later in the evening.
• Take a cool shower or bath.
• Use the “buddy system” to check on a friend or relative twice a day, and have them check on you. If either of you sound confused or do not answer your phone at the scheduled time, have a back-up plan for someone to make a visit or call emergency services. A similar service at a fee is available through Life Line.
• Hire a caregiver to do chores such as housekeeping, shopping, cooking and even personal care that cause you too much exhaustion in the heat. Private in-home care agencies are available. FREED has a referral program of available workers for hire. For those on MediCal with permanent disabilities, In Home Supportive Services is also an option.
• Reach out for help by letting your doctor, relatives, neighbors, church/spiritual group, and friends know that you need some extra attention during the heat. Chances are that they will be glad you mentioned how they can help, so don’t be shy!
• Try to trick your mind and think about cooler times. Watch movies about winter, keep your drapes closed, listen to recordings of waterfalls or rain.
What do you do if you still have serious problems or are concerned about a senior or a person with a disability? Do not hesitate to call 911 in an emergency, even if you are worried that it may embarrass the person. You may prevent a serious illness or save their life.
Adult Services is available to assist with information and referrals, assessments by social workers, home visits by Senior Outreach Nurses, and screening for In Home Supportive Services. We are open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and are available at 265-1639.
Jeree Waller is the Adult Services supervisor, Nevada County.
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