Senior citizens may need extra care during high heat

Senior citizens are especially at risk for heat-related illnesses, but not all of them are taking the heat seriously.

Half of people over age 85 have some form of dementia, meaning that it's easy for them to forget simple tasks like turning on the air conditioner. That mental illness, coupled with the variety of medications, means caregivers have to perform "heat interventions" to keep senior citizens safe.

Caregiver Joann Dawson takes her daily walk with 97-year-old Sylvia Cooperman, but Friday, it was inside her assisted living facility.

Dawson and Cooperman’s son Melvin say Cooperman knows it's hot outside but needs reminders to keep cool inside.

“I have to close both of the doors and turn on the AC, but she don't really like it on,” Dawson said. “I have to talk to her and remind her about the temperature outside.”

Like many seniors, Cooperman is vulnerable to the heat because of her medications. Not all seniors fully recognize the danger on these triple-digit days.

“Most of our seniors are a little in denial about how serious the heat is,” says Wendy Johnson, Dawson’s boss at Senior Helpers.

Johnson says the helpers had to perform what they call "heat interventions" with a number of clients, “literally walking in and turning on the AC and taking off the robe and the blanket,” she said. Because many suffer from Alzheimer's or Dementia, they may forget to use the air conditioner, or become confused about how to cool down if they're hot.

Senior helpers says the "heat interventions" also mean making a few small changes, like feeding clients lighter meals that are easy to digest, and cooling off the car before they get inside.