Connect the Dots: Climate & Caregiving – Bickering over climate action does little to help older Americans, who are increasingly at the mercy of Mother Nature’s climate disasters

Hello KIRC family!

What is the temperature forecast today for where you live?

I’m based in Northern California, and according to the National Weather Service, my region is expected to top out near 102-degrees – phew!

Climate and caregiving

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Courtesy: Canva

If you are a caregiver – family or professional – I want you to think about extreme weather patterns for a moment and then ask yourselves, ‘Am I prepared to care for an elder in a weather emergency?’

  • Do I have an evacuation route mapped out?

  • If I lose power, what options do I have for cooling or running needed medical devices?

  • Does the facility caring for older clients have back-up generators?

  • Is there an emergency ‘go-bag’ packed if an evacuation is ordered?

Extreme heat

Around the country and world, the news cycle this past week has been filled with stories sounding the alarm of just how much temperatures are climbing.

Whether you call this trend climate change or not, consider this: we are all seeing and feeling the scientific weather events taking place. For instance –

The UK hit a record high temperature this past week.

The United Kingdom crushed its record for highest temperature Tuesday as a scorching heat wave broiled much of mainland Europe, leading to hundreds of heat-related deaths and fierce wildfires. ~ USA Today

That extreme heat is impacting infrastructure.

Extreme temperatures have led to widespread problems and disruption on Britain’s railways, with trains running at slow speeds and mainlines closed. Airport runways and some roads have also shown they can be susceptible to heat. ~ The Guardian

United States

Here at home, climate continues to take center stage on the political, environmental and economical fronts, yet polls indicate many Americans do not place climate as a high priority.

The Biden administration announced plans to expand a number of federal programs aimed at addressing extreme heat events.

That move came one week after failing to get necessary support from West Virginia Senator, Joe Manchin III (D) for more sweeping clean energy legislation.

There is a race to save California’s Giant Sequoia trees from wildfire.

“Without urgent action, wildfires could eliminate countless more iconic giant sequoias,” Forest Service Chief Randy Moore said in a statement. “This emergency action to reduce fuels before a wildfire occurs will protect unburned giant sequoia groves from the risks of high-severity wildfires.” ~ Associated Press

Heat and snakes

In Kentucky, wildlife authorities are reminding people the extreme heat is not only impacting humans. It seems other species are also looking for relief in unlikely places!


Connect the dots

As you know, I recently completed a six-month fellowship with the American Society on Aging focused on the intersection of aging, healthcare and DEI – diversity, equity and inclusion.

As part of my team’s final project, we presented the case that almost every headline-making social issue our nation is facing, has a crossover point with aging. Extreme heat and climate change included.

Consider the victims of many major weather and heat stories the past several years have been older Americans:

Northern California’s 2018 Camp Fire destroyed the town of Paradise killing 85 people. The majority of those who died were over age 50. 18 were in their 80’s!

Think about Hurricane Ida from just last year. It was a category 4 storm, logged as the second most destructive to hit Louisiana!

In the aftermath of that storm, seven people died after the owner of a nursing home moved hundreds of elderly clients into a warehouse not designed for proper care.

That owner has since been charged with 15 felony counts.

In 2017, Hurricane Irma targeted Florida. You’ll remember, 12 people died from heat exposure after the storm knocked out power. They too were residents of a nursing home.

Call to Action

The KIRC ‘Call to Action’ for all of us? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Begin to think about the connections between climate, extreme heat and how we care for our elders.

  • Review your personal household plan to respond to an emergency.

  • Contact your local power company to enroll in any programs offered for special needs energy/medical equipment

  • Get involved locally to ensure your elected representatives are not looking at climate threat as a political issue, but rather as a life/safety issue.

  • Research whether the care facility you are considering has an emergency power source and/or an evacuation protocol in place.

As they often say in science fiction movies: Good luck and God speed~



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