Nursing home residents with dementia have a higher risk of suffering heat stroke, and facilities must take steps to protect them from the heat. Older adults are more susceptible to heat-related injuries or fatalities. They are less able to regulate their body temperatures. Many people with memory loss may take medications that have side effects such as dehydration and reduced sweating that compound the problem. People with dementia may also be less likely to notice heat-related effects. Nursing homes have a duty to protect the people who are in their care. If they fail to protect people with dementia from heat stroke, they may be liable for neglect or abuse.
Heat Stroke Dangers for Elderly Adults with Dementia
According to researchers from the University of Chicago Medical Center, 40% of all heat-related deaths in the U.S. occur to people who are ages 65 or older. As people grow older, their bodies become less able to regulate temperature. Cognitive declines make heat-related injuries even more problematic because people with dementia may not recognize the signs that they are becoming overheated. Those who suffer from memory loss and confusion might not seek shelter when it is too hot. Many of these adults are prescribed medications that increase the risk of dehydration and reduce their ability to sweat. All of these factors place dementia patients at a greater risk of suffering heat-related injuries.
Steps to Protect People with Dementia
Nursing homes must take preventative measures to help to protect dementia patients in their care from the dangers of heat stroke. The staff should be cognizant of the medications that residents are prescribed so they know whether any of them might make the patients more susceptible to heat. Nursing home staff should ensure that people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are not left outside in the heat unattended. They should be encouraged to move indoors when they show signs of becoming overheated. Staff members should learn the signs of heat-related problems and promptly intervene with appropriate first aid measures.
Nursing homes should conduct training sessions with their staff about the dangers of heat exposure. If person with dementia suffers a heat-related illness while living in a nursing home, the facility may be liable.