I recently talked with a friend whose mother (I’ll call her Betty) has dementia and lives in a senior housing facility. One of Betty’s paid caregivers took her out one morning last week. By the time they returned to the facility, temperatures were in the high 80s with high humidity. When the caregiver got out of the car to get Betty’s wheelchair, she closed the driver-side door. Her keys were locked in the car with Betty. Because Betty has dementia, she couldn’t unlock the doors or open a window.
The caregiver called AAA for help getting the car unlocked and also called EMS. Once Betty was out of the car, emergency medical personnel evaluated her and gave her water. Betty was fine. My friend was freaked out and asked me to remind my readers that the elderly have as great a risk of dying in hot cars as do children.
Older adults — those 65 years and older — are more susceptible to heat stress than younger people for several reasons, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“1. Older adults do not adjust as well as young people to sudden temperature changes.
2. They are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat.
3. They are more likely to take prescription medicines that impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration.”
So please don’t leave your loved one in a hot car this summer, particularly if she is unable to get out on her own for whatever reason. And remember to check on her one two or three times a day during heat waves to be sure she’s staying cool and hydrated.