Senior Health Tucson AZ

Nursing Home Air Conditioning: A Matter of Life & Death

In June of 2017, 79-year-old Oralia Parra walked out of her memory care facility, Immanuel Campus of Care in Peoria, AZ, through an unsecured door into the blistering summer heat. She was reported missing by the facility’s staff and her body was found later that afternoon less than half a mile from the facility.

Parra, an Alzheimer’s patient, is one of 60 suspected heat-related deaths reported in Arizona since the beginning of this year.

In many cases, it’s not always clear if heat was the primary cause of death and numbers from agencies often differ on just how many Arizona residents die from heat strokes every year. But azcentral.com reports that at least four east Valley seniors with air conditioning problems in their homes have died from heat-related illness. It’s a problem that should concern all Arizonians.

The temperatures in Arizona have been breaking records and raising concern about the safety of senior citizens. On June 20th, the temperature in Tucson hit 116 degrees Fahrenheit, only one degree short of an all-time high. Senior citizens are more vulnerable to heat stroke and heat-related illness than most other age groups and it’s vital for caretakers to understand the importance of air conditioners as our state weathers a smothering summer season.

Heat-Related Illnesses

High temperatures can affect the human body in many ways, inducing exhaustion, dehydration, cramps and hyperthermia. Hyperthermia, an abnormally high body temperature, can have several severe consequences and is more likely among elderly people.

The most serious form of hyperthermia is heatstroke, which occurs when a person’s body temperature rises to 103 degrees or higher. Heatstroke can lead to brain, heart or kidney damage. If not treated promptly it can result in permanent disability or death. Symptoms include accelerated pulse, faintness, dizziness, nausea and confusion.

Nursing Home Responsibilities

Nursing homes have a responsibility to protect patients in the event of excessive heat. According to data from the University of Minnesota, temperatures in Arizona nursing home facilities cannot exceed 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Nursing homes must maintain air conditioning systems to maintain acceptable temperatures. When no air conditioning is available, there must be a contingency plan in place.

Nursing home staff must monitor patients frequently in warm weather. Staff members should communicate with patients and be able to identify the symptoms of heat-related illnesses.

The case of Oralia Parra also highlights the threat of heat-stroke to patients who wander outdoors and are exposed to record-breaking temperatures. Facilities should secure all doors and make sure that patients suffering from dementia are closely monitored. [See Also: The Signs of Nursing Home Abuse]

Has Your Loved One Been Neglected in a Nursing Home?

Nursing home residents often have special needs and facilities have an obligation to meet those needs. When nursing home staff neglect residents, they should be held responsible.

The Khalidi Law Firm has many years of experience helping victims of negligent nursing homes. If you suspect that your loved one has been neglected or abused in a nursing home, get legal help as soon as possible. Contact the Tucson nursing home abuse lawyers at The Khalidi Law Firm for a free consultation. Call (520) 629-9909 today or fill out our online form to learn more.