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Summer Risks to Residents In Negligent Nursing Homes

Nursing Home DeathNursing home residents are at an increased risk of injury during the summer months, particularly those who are in careless or negligent nursing homes. Heat illnesses are entirely preventable with adequate care and supervision.

Here’s a look at what risks long-term care facility residents face during hot summers and how the office of Mazow | McCullough, PC can provide you with the support you need to advocate for your loved one in a nursing home.

Dehydration

The human body uses more of its water reserves in the summer, potentially leading to dehydration more quickly than in the spring, fall, and winter. Moisture is primarily lost through perspiration, which can increase significantly in older individuals. If left untreated, dehydration can cause organ failure and death.

  • Dry mouth and tongue
  • Absence of tears when crying
  • Dry, cracked, or ashy skin
  • Hollow or sunken-looking eyes and cheeks
  • Fatigue and listlessness
  • Irritability or mood changes
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Rapid heart rate and respirations
  • Dark-colored urine or the absence of urine
  • Loss of consciousness

Heat Rash

Heat rash is an uncomfortable, red, bumpy rash that occurs when sweat or other moisture becomes trapped on top of the skin. When elderly people are being cared for in facilities without adequate ventilation and air conditioning, heat rash can be quick to develop.

Symptoms of a heat rash include:

  • red, inflamed blisters on the affected area
  • pain and itching similar to the sensation of a minor sunburn
  • Skin may feel “prickly,” lending to the condition’s alternative name “prickly heat”

Heat Cramps

Of the three primarily recognized heat illnesses, heat cramps are the most mild. These are usually not dangerous, but can result in painful muscle spasms after being exposed to high heat. Not all nursing home patients will get heat cramps before getting heat exhaustion. Heat cramps often correlate to physical activity in the heat, which the majority if not all long-term care residents do not engage in.

In addition to muscle cramps, heat cramps may cause the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased thirst

Heat Exhaustion

Soon after dehydration occurs, a patient is at risk of developing heat exhaustion. This occurs as the body depletes its water, salt, and electrolyte reserves. Nursing home patients who have high blood pressure are at an even greater risk of heat exhaustion than those with low to normal blood pressure levels.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include but are not limited to:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability or mood swings
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Rapidly increasing internal body temperature

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is a critical and life-threatening heat illness. The prolonged and excessive exposure to heat has caused the body to become unable to regulate its own internal temperature and cannot cool itself down. If untreated, wrongful death may occur.

Symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Headache
  • Skin that is dry and hot to the touch
  • Excessive perspiration
  • High internal body temperature
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

What to Do In Case of Heat Illness

If you notice your elderly loved one displaying signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion, or another heat-related illness, there are a few things you can do to help them immediately.

First and foremost, get them out of the heat as quickly as possible. Move them to the shade or where there’s a breeze, open a window, or purchase a portable in-room air conditioner. You may also be able to place your loved one in a cool shower in their room’s bathroom or sponge their body with a cool compress and a fan.

Mild dehydration can be treated by having the patient increase their liquid intake. However, if dehydration is severe, the patient may need to be administered intravenous fluid and may also need other critical medical interventions. Usually, elderly patients who have suffered any sort of heat illness besides heat rash to be hospitalized for treatment and the assessment of potential complications.

Mazow McCullough, PC

Mazow | McCullough, PC understands that when you place your loved one in a nursing home, you expect them to be well taken care of. Learning that this did not happen and your loved one has been injured as a result can be a devastating blow.

Contact us now for a consultation appointment to learn more about how we may be able to support you and your loved one during this difficult time. Dial our Salem, MA office at (978) 744-8000 or toll-free at (855) 693-9084 to find out how we may be able to help you obtain justice for any harm done to your loved one while in the care of a negligent nursing home.

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