With the so called “Heat Dome” affecting much of the continental United States, it seemed like a prudent time to write about being safe and keeping cool outside. The Heat Dome is “a perfect storm of sizzling summer weather exacerbated by relatively cloudless skies and the higher angle of the sun in the summer”. This has caused the entire continental US to face a huge heat wave that has already broken 221 records across the country.
With this increased heat, experts at the US National Institute on Aging recently stated that the risk of heat-related illness increases with age. As people get older, their bodies are less able to adapt to increased temperatures which can exacerbate their pre-existing conditions. Furthermore, medications that seniors take may also cause dehydration or decrease their body’s ability to respond to heat.
Once the body reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit, a heat stroke may occur which can be deadly. Signs that indicate this has occurred include “a strong, rapid pulse; lack of sweating; dry flushed skin; faintness; staggering; and mental status changes, such as confusion, combativeness, disorientation or even coma”.
Researchers strongly cautioned seniors to avoid the heat as much as possible by staying inside with air conditioning as much as possible. However, if someone is suffering from a heat-related illness the following steps should be taken:
- Call 911 immediately
- Move them into air conditioning or another cool place
- Urge them to lie down and rest
- Remove or loosen tight-fitting or heavy clothing
- Encourage them to drink water or juices if they are able to drink, but avoid alcohol and caffeine
- Apply cold water or cold compresses to their skin
 Eli Jacks, meteorologist at the National Weather Service, http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2011/07/whats-heat-dome-anyway/40291/
 HealthDay, “Elderly at Greater Risk for Heat Stroke, Experts Warn”, http://news.yahoo.com/elderly-greater-risk-heat-stroke-experts-warn-130609458.html;_ylt=AqL5A21cJKH.mEb7cpaqkE_VJRIF;_ylu=X3oDMTM4OTg0ZnBlBHBrZwMzZjQwYzc3ZC0yMTVmLTM2MmQtYTAwOC1jYzQyYzhjYmI2YmEEcG9zAzMEc2VjA2xuX0FnaW5nX2dhbAR2ZXIDODEyZDRjYzAtYjM5YS0xMWUwLWJmZGItNWNlODFkYThjNGI1;_ylv=3
In the United States more than 700,000 people suffer a stroke every year, and about two-thirds of these individuals survive and require rehabilitation. Rehab aims to help these survivors reach the best quality of life and become as independent as possible. Reaching this goal requires an understanding of the important elements of recovery at home which will be discussed here.
As briefly mentioned in a previous post, therapy at home has recently been found to be a more effective treatment method than high-tech intervention. Duncan’s 2011 study regarding stroke patients concludes that “patients given the treadmill intervention were also found to be at higher risk for falls when started early, making in home therapy safer”. Another study directed by Nancy E. Mayo (PhD, associate professor at the school of physical and occupational therapy at McGill University) decisively concludes that “home is the best place for stroke rehabilitation” and “going home…empowers the survivor and the family to take charge of the care”. Given these facts, patients need to understand the steps they can take to even further improve their rehabilitation process.
Here are a few tips for improving your post stroke recovery at home according to the National Stroke Association:
- Ask your doctor to arrange a home visit by an occupational therapist, who is trained to help you regain your independence
- Adjust or add lighting throughout your home to decrease glare and help you see better
- Keep telephones within easy reach
- Write out emergency phone numbers in large font and keep them in several easy to find locations
- Accept help with chores such as cleaning, making meals and errands
- Install sturdy handrails and grab bars in your bathroom to prevent injury
- 40% of stroke survivors suffer serious falls within the first year of recovery at home, use these tips to prevent that:
- Move extra furniture out of the way
- Clear paths to important rooms like the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom
- Move electrical wires out of walkways
- Wear non-skid shoes and avoid slippery surfaces
- Install handrails for support when going up and down stairs
Following this advice in addition to consulting an occupational and physical therapist can make post-stroke recovery an easier process for those faced with the circumstances.
 National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “Post-Stroke Rehabilitation Fact Sheet”. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/stroke/poststrokerehab.htm
 Kathleen Blanchard, RN. “At home physical therapy safer than high tech stroke rehabilitation”. http://www.emaxhealth.com/1020/home-physical-therapy-safer-high-tech-stroke-rehabilitation
 ”Home Is the Best Place for Stroke Rehabilitation”. May 5, 2000. Medscape Medical News. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/411846
 National Stroke Association. “Recovery After Stroke: Managing Life at Home”. http://www.stroke.org/site/DocServer/NSAFactSheet_ManagingLifeatHome.pdf?docID=994