Extreme heat takes toll on seniors in New Brunswick

Extreme temperatures and humidity in New Brunswick create dangerous conditions for seniors. Nursing homes are finding ways to keep residents cool.

Seniors in nursing homes use ceiling fans and floor fans in bedrooms to keep air circulating

A Riverview seniors home is taking extra precautions with its residents during the recent run of extreme heat. (CBC)

Heading to the beach is a common way for New Brunswickers to beat the extreme heat we've been experiencing in the province this past week.

Others might find respite in their air-conditioned offices during the work day. 

But for seniors, the options for escaping the heat can be limited, and the high temperatures and humidity a dangerous combination.

That's why staff at the Salvation Army Lakeview Manor in Riverview are monitoring their residents 24 hours a day, seven days a week to make sure they are getting enough fluids during this recent heat wave.

Some air-conditioning

The home is equipped with air conditioning in the hallways, dining rooms, common areas and offices.

Some bedrooms are equipped with portable air-conditioning units, but most bedrooms have different types of fans to keep the air circulating.

Kym Elder is the executive director of the Salvation Army Lakeview Manor in Riverview. (Maeve McFadden/CBC)

"For a lot of our residents, the air conditioning is too much," said Kym Elder, the executive director of the Salvation Army Lakeview Manor. 

"It leaves them uncomfortable."

Some add layers

Closing the blinds and keeping the windows closed is one of the best ways to keep the heat out and the rooms at a safe temperature, Elder said.  

While most people tend to remove layers of clothing when the temperature soars, it's not uncommon to find seniors putting on sweaters and adding layers.

Elder said staff at Lakeview Manor keep a close eye on their residents who might put on too many layers of clothing.

Having staff monitoring residents around the clock is one of the advantages of being in a level three care facility. 

There are 68 licensed nursing homes in New Brunswick.

Province has regulations

All of these homes work with the Department of Social Development to ensure provincial regulations are followed and residents are comfortable during all seasons of the year.

The nursing homes regulation under the Nursing Homes Act states that every nursing home must have a heating system capable of maintaining a consistent 23 C temperature throughout the home.

Resident Barbara Wilson keeps cool at the Salvation Army Lakeview Manor in Riverview. (Maeve McFadden/CBC)

"Under current design standards, new nursing homes must have ventilation and humidification to maintain acceptable indoor air quality for residents and staff,"  Department of Social Development spokesperson Anne Mooers said in an email.

"They must provide air-conditioning to the administration, care offices, dietary areas, laundry and staff areas, corridors, dining and lounges. Resident bedrooms, bath and shower areas must be maintained at temperatures not exceeding 26 C.

"Mini-split air-conditioning/heat pumps may be considered for supplementary air conditioning".

Don't forget neighbours

The Department of Health encourages all New Brunswickers to check in on their neighbours when the province is impacted by extreme heat levels, especially vulnerable individuals.

People most vulnerable and at risk of health effects related to extreme heat are young children and older adults, homeless and socially isolated people, and people with chronic health conditions or using certain medications.

We have some folks who live here who are very talented with their water gun skills, so it was quite fun. - Kym Elder, Salvation Army Lakeview Manor 

Luckily for the residents at the Salvation Army Lakeview Manor, there is a shaded garden for them to use when they want to get outside.

A covered gazebo and plenty of mature trees provide ample places for them to sit in the shade and enjoy the breeze.

Many of the seniors living there take pride in the flowers and vegetables planted throughout the yard.

Bring out the squirt guns

They have also found some creative ways to beat the heat and have some fun too.

"The other day, we had quite a good time outside on one of the hot days because we had a lot of squirt guns and the residents basically decided to take on the staff," Elder said.

"So, we had a good challenge out there and people were enjoying that time to be out and being playful rather than feeling shut in. We have some folks who live here who are very talented with their water gun skills, so it was quite fun."

New Brunswickers are getting a break from the extreme heat with temperatures dropping to a more seasonable level in the mid-20s.

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