For the last several years Montrealers have endured periods of high heat and humidity in the summer months. These heat waves, with temperatures in the high ’30’s, which can last a few days or even weeks, are very hard on seniors and other vulnerable citizens.
Over the last few weeks, high heat and humidity have been blamed for 70 deaths in the province of Quebec – mostly vulnerable adults who live in small flats with no air conditioning.
It helps to be proactive when you know a heat wave is coming. For our home care clients, it is all hands on deck as we organize ourselves to take certain steps to ensure their safety.
Here are some ideas.
If our client is mobile, we plan an outing to an air conditioned mall or a movie theatre. If you plan the outing around a meal time, you can spend several hours in a cool environment. Tim Horton’s offers light lunches such a soup and sandwiches. Cavendish Mall and Alexis Nihon Plaza both have accessible buildings – easy to enter with a walker or wheelchair – and it is smooth sailing from there. If you drive to Alexis Nihon the elevator takes you from the parking level to the movie theatre level in a few seconds. This weekend we will be taking two clients to see the movie “RBG” about Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the US Supreme Court Justice – and we are all looking forward to it!
Air conditioning is not always available, especially in some older homes. When taking care of a client or loved one at home, always make sure that they are as cool as possible. Basements are fantastic because they are so cool. If it is possible, go down there for a little while. If not, ensure that the client is sitting in an area away from the sun or where the curtains can be drawn. Turn on the fans to circulate the air. Always provide your client with a glass of cold water and make sure they drink it! Only go outside for walks in the early morning or the early evening.
Preparing food for the client does not have to involve the oven during a heat wave. Cold plates of sliced ham or cold chicken, tuna, coleslaw, potato salad and a hard boiled egg are nourishing and delicious. You can also use the stove top to soft boil and egg and serve with buttered toast (always get those calories in!). Ice cream and 5% yogurt with berries are also nice desserts at this time of year.
During a heat wave, communication is very important. Even after our shifts have been completed, we telephone our clients to make sure that they are well, and then report to the family.