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High Temperatures Dangerous For Utah's Elderly

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The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning for parts of Utah this week. And those high temperatures can be especially dangerous for Utah’s elderly.

The National Weather Service is warning that young children, those with medical conditions, and the elderly need to stay indoors to avoid heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Seniors are particularly vulnerable because of medical conditions they may have or medications they’re on.

“A big thing is fluid intake. Seniors chronically tend to be dehydrated,” says Angela York, the wellness director at the Avenues Courtyard Assisted Living Center in Salt Lake.

“Some elderly don’t like to drink a lot of water, because maybe they have issues with incontinence, so they feel like if they drink more they’re going to have problems using the restroom, and that’s a big reason that I see a lot," she says. "And then a lot of them are just stubborn and don’t like to drink a lot of water.”

But staying hydrated is the best way to avoid heat exhaustion. Michael Slaughter is a resident at the Avenues Courtyard Assisted Living Center.

“The key is staying hydrated," he says. "Well generally it’s a good idea to drink primarily water first, and then any other liquids, I drink a lot of iced tea, and then a soda every now and then.”

Elderly people living in un-air-conditioned spaces can also suffer from heat exhaustion. Peter Hebertson is the Program Manager for Salt Lake County’s Aging and Adult Services Outreach Program. He says Salt Lake County’s “Cool Zone” program helps seniors beat the heat by providing cool places for seniors to stay during the hot summer days.

“We just have a lot of people that live in older homes because they’ve lived there for many years that don’t have proper cooling," he says. "So going to one of these libraries or senior centers is not only cool, but there are a lot of other things and activities they could engage in.”

It can be hard to tell if an elderly person is suffering from heat exhaustion. Hebertson says if someone is suffering from confusion, exhaustion, or acting strange it’s time to seek medical help. 

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