UofL geriatrician warns of seniors’ special needs during heat wave

The vice chair for geriatric medicine at the University of Louisville warns that people aged 65 and above need special attention as temperatures across the United States hit 100 degrees and above.

Christian Davis Furman, M.D., M.S.P.H., says seniors and their families and caregivers should take special precautions to avoid heat-related illness.

“Older adults have a hard time sensing when they are getting dehydrated,” Furman says. “They also have fewer sweat glands, so the possibility is greater they will get overheated easily because they do not sweat as much. Therefore, it is very important that they consciously drink extra fluids on warm days.”

It is important to note also that older adults may have physical or cognitive barriers to drinking, she says.

“Some older adults simply have a hard time getting to water easily because they have severe pain or difficulty moving due to arthritis or other conditions,” Furman says. “Also, some older adults are unable to communicate that they need water because of dementia or other brain diseases.

“If an older adult has these barriers, their family and caregivers need to make sure they drink often and are appropriately hydrated.”

Furman adds that seniors also should take the same precautions as everyone else during a heat wave. According to the American Red Cross, excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events in recent years. During a heat wave, people should drink plenty of fluids and avoid caffeine and alcohol; eat smaller meals and eat more often; wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing; and stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.

UofL Geriatrics is the only clinical care provider in Kentucky and Southern Indiana specializing in geriatric medicine through the Geriatric Evaluation and Treatment Program, known as “GET” and considered the highest standard of care nationally for geriatric patients.

Under the GET program, an interdisciplinary approach is used to develop a treatment plan for patients. They receive a review of their medications by a doctor of pharmacy trained in geriatrics pharmacotherapy through the geriatrics polypharmacy initiative; a medical evaluation by a geriatrician; a cognitive evaluation by a psychologist; and a psycho-social assessment by a social worker to evaluate their caregiving and support needs. After these four evaluations are conducted, the entire team of UofL geriatrics providers comes together to develop a personalized and comprehensive care plan for the patient.


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