Status: 08/04/2022 12:47 p.m.
The heat is back. This can be a major health burden, especially for older people. Some towns use a heat phone to warn their elders. Does that make sense?
Bärbel Schmieden, 87, knows what she’s talking about when it comes to the consequences of a lack of water in hot weather: “I fell because I didn’t drink enough. I was then hospitalized for eight days and had to take infusions because the Salts were missing. Since then, I drink 1.5 liters of water a day,” says the Sarroise.
1.5 liters of water: an amount that many seniors find difficult. The feeling of thirst decreases with age. In addition, each visit to the toilet becomes a challenge for those who are less mobile.
This can be dangerous, especially in hot weather. The body sweats more than usual, loses fluid. It can dry out and derail the mineral balance. There is a risk of circulatory and kidney problems, confusion leading to unconsciousness and even life-threatening conditions. People who are already sick should be especially careful. Anyone with lung problems, for example, then looks even worse, according to heat researcher Christian Witt from Charité Berlin.
In the hot summer of 2018, an estimated 8,400 people died from the heat, and by 2100 that could be 60,000 a year if nothing is done about it, Witt says. He talks about toxic heat and calls on cities and towns to change course. For example, refrigerated rooms accessible to the public are needed in which the elderly can take refuge from overheated apartments.
Bärbel Schmieden: The elderly woman drinks 1.5 liters of water a day to protect herself from the heat
Advice against heat by telephone
The thermal phone is another way to protect elderly people living alone. A week ago one started in Saarbrücken. Seniors can register and specify a contact person. When the temperature exceeds 30 degrees, a member of staff will call you in the morning to warn you of the impending heat.
You are asked to drink regularly, to cool your house by darkening it in time and, if necessary, to adjust your medication – for example if it has a dehydrating effect.
“If we have the impression that the person is not well, we make sure that a neighbour, a relative or the family doctor checks,” explains Elke Kranzhöfer from Diakonie Saar.
Form for heating telephone operators: seniors can register
What is the right ventilation strategy?
In addition to drinking, it is important to prevent the apartment from heating up. A public controversy had recently erupted on this subject: many experts advise to open windows and French windows at night or early in the morning, then to ventilate them ideally crosswise, that is to say with a current of electricity. air, then to darken them again from nine o’clock when it becomes warm again. Meteorologist Jörg Kachelmann, meanwhile, swears by a constant draft and at least one fan in the “Spiegel” interview.
Foot bath to cool off
Heat-related emergencies with temperatures around 35 degrees are also keeping GPs on their toes. The circulatory system often gives way because there is not enough fluid supplied, explains the German Association of General Practitioners.
The association therefore recommends protecting yourself from the heat, especially for the very elderly and patients with cardiovascular diseases. Especially at lunchtime, if in doubt, it is better to stay in a cool apartment or house and avoid physical exertion. “Anything that refreshes you is also useful, for example a cool foot bath”, specifies the association.
Heat phones in other cities too
The heat hotline is also available in other heat-hit cities: for example in Kassel, Worms and Krefeld. In Saarbrücken, the heat telephone should ring for around 15 elderly people. Christiane Poersch from Diakonie Sarre hopes there will be others. “Maybe it will take time for the word to get around.”
The heat phone has been in place in Kassel for twelve years – according to the city with 20 registered participants. In addition to information, friendly conversation is particularly appreciated.
Employees in Saarbrücken hope that the phone will be used before the next heat wave – because only then can it save lives. Considering the thousands of people who have died from the heat, this is at best a first step towards realizing the risks of sweltering heat. “We are a very affected country and we urgently need to provide more air conditioning,” says heat researcher Witt.