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Seniors at higher risk of heat illness

September 27, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The intense heat is hard on everyone, but it's especially dangerous for seniors, who can easily become dehydrated and suffer from heat exhaustion.Seniors are at a higher risk for heat illness because of medications and medical conditions.

They are more likely not to be able to cool their bodies down. They are advised to stay hydrated, minimize their activity and find a cool place to cool down.

With no air conditioning at home, Monday turned out to be the most miserable for 54-year-old Naim Muhthleb.

"Oh God, it's just unbearable," Muthleb said.

He broke out in a sweat to get to the Pasadena Senior Center, but once he got inside, he said it was worth the walk.

"I know where to go: the cooling station at the senior center," Muthleb said.

The staff at the senior center is on the lookout for people at risk.

"If we see someone that's in distress we'll make sure that they are hydrated and that they aren't in any kind of danger," said Akila Gibbs, the executive director at the center. "We encourage our seniors to stay hydrated and to stay out of the sun and keep hats on."

This cooling center is one of many set up in Los Angeles County to provide relief to seniors.

Many cooling stations are located at senior centers that also reach out to elderly clients stuck at home.

"That's our most fragile population, homebound seniors," Gibbs said. "We do find a lot of seniors increasingly don't have family or friends to turn to."

Because of the economy, social service workers say more local seniors than ever can't afford air conditioning. And many can't even afford shelter.

"We had an increase in homelessness by 10 percent and the food need, we've noticed a 35 percent increase," said Tonjia Barnes, a social services director.

Barnes said her staff calls homebound clients daily to make sure they are okay. Volunteers can also help them get free fans.

"We work with (the Los Angeles Department of) Water and Power and they will provide fans so what we do is get the persons information, register them and deliver the fan to their home," Barnes said.

Seniors need a social network of support. They should be called, checked on and have enough water.

Heat wave safety tips

  • Drink more fluids, and don't wait until you're thirsty.

  • Wear light, loose-fitting clothing

  • If possible, stay in a cool and air-conditioned place.

  • Never leave people or pets in parked vehicles.

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