Biological aging brings about many changes, and among them is the gradual deterioration of bodily functions. As a person gets older, it becomes tougher for the body to regulate temperature. Assisted-living facilities must manage temperature levels for their residents. Below are reasons why the elderly and sick are vulnerable to extreme heat and cold in assisted-living facilities.
Certain health conditions make it difficult for elderly people to stay warm. For instance, diabetes can prevent blood from flowing normally and circulating heat in the body. It can also cause nerve damage or peripheral neuropathy, which keeps a person from feeling coldness, heat, or pain in the hands or feet. Thyroid problems can also hinder the body from maintaining a normal temperature. Extreme heat and cold are especially dangerous for an elderly resident who is anemic because the heart must pump overtime to compensate for the lack of red blood cells.
When a resident has dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other conditions that affect memory and thinking, he or she may not readily be able to recognize signs of injury related to extreme temperatures. For example, frostbite can develop on skin exposed to severe cold. However, those with cognitive disorders may not be aware of the warning signs like skin discoloration and numbness until it is too late. Staff members at assisted-living facilities should be vigilant in monitoring residents who could be outside or within the premises without proper clothing.
Some medicines alter the way the body regulates heat, making it vital for the facility to maintain a comfortable temperature for its residents. One frequently used drug that senior people take is beta blockers, which can slow down the heart rate. This decreases circulation in the hands and feet and makes a person more susceptible to the impact of extreme cold.
Other Physical Vulnerabilities
Most of the time, older adults have trouble adjusting to sudden temperature changes. Aging can cause blood vessel walls to stiffen, reducing circulation. The skin also becomes thinner as years pass and makes conservation of heat more difficult. Moreover, older adults tend to undergo less evaporative cooling because they do not sweat as much as before. This can overtax the body as it works hard to maintain its temperature.
Extreme Temperatures Are a Health Hazard for the Elderly
When the temperature drops, seniors can quickly lose body heat and become sick. One particularly dangerous condition is hypothermia, wherein an older person can have a heart attack, liver damage, kidney problems, and other life-threatening illnesses. Your loved one can experience hypothermia even while inside an assisted-living facility. A medical emergency becomes more likely the longer residents stay in the cold.
On the other hand, too much heat is also harmful because it can bring on hyperthermia, as Healthline notes. This condition can give rise to illnesses such as heat edema, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat syncope. Also, older people can have heatstroke, which may be fatal. Those who have health problems are at a higher risk of having their hearts stop beating.
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Assisted-Living Facilities Should Protect Residents from Extreme Temperatures
Assisted-living residences are responsible for the comfort and safety of their homes. Individual temperature controls are among the requirements of some states when it comes to granting licenses for long-term care facilities. Others have regulations obliging assisted-living facilities to equip buildings with HVAC systems that ensure temperatures are within a range that is comfortable for the residents. More importantly, facilities should have enough staff members who can provide for the needs of residents and closely monitor them for signs of extreme temperatures.
Liability and Injuries Due to Extreme Heat or Cold
When abuse and negligence play a part in the injury of elderly and sick individuals, you may have the right to hold the facility accountable for your loved one’s suffering. You can reach out to a nursing home abuse attorney who can discuss your options for pursuing legal action and give you helpful advice. Your loved one might be able to recover compensation for damages they endured after exposure to intense temperatures.
We Seek to Right the Wrongs of Negligent Facilities
To discuss why the elderly and sick are vulnerable to extreme heat and cold in assisted-living facilities and what the legal ramifications are, speak to one of our lawyers. The team at Ben Crump Law, PLLC, will answer your questions and determine how best they can help you if your loved one has suffered an injury from extreme temperatures because of a negligent caregiver.
Call our office today at (800) 959-1444 for a free case review.