Record temperatures across Acadiana and the nation mean we should all stay hydrated while outdoors.  These temperatures also mean we should be vigilant and safeguard the elderly in our families and in our communities.

If you haven't seen your elderly neighbor in two or three days it might be too late to help.  If an air-conditioner goes out in the middle of the night we might just open windows and turn on a fan.  An elderly neighbor might be too weak to get up to help themselves and might dehydrate quickly and die.  A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health shows that summer temperature variations of as little as three-degrees can shorten life expectancy for seniors with chronic health problems.  The study looked at health records for a 16 year period covering over three and a half million chronically ill elderly people.  According to the study even a small change in temperature variations can increase deaths by up to four percent.  The study concluded that the temperature extremes and variations we are currently experiencing can lead to an additional 10,000 deaths.  This yearly increase in deaths comes from elderly people who suffer from heart failure, chronic lung disease or diabetes.

So based on that study I am suggesting that you check on elderly relatives or neighbors daily.  Two days might be too long a stretch.  It would be a shame to have someone close to you die a heat related death.  I urge you to call or visit daily.  Ask if their AC unit is working properly.  If they even hint at a malfunction get them relocated and the unit repaired.

Make sure those elderly or infirm have the means to stay hydrated at all times.  Urge them to stay indoors and refrain from doing outside work.  You might even volunteer to help them with outdoor chores or pay to have yard work done for them.  It's a small price to prevent a loss of someone close.