Many people might choose a
nice, hot day over a blustery,
cold afternoon. However,
excessively hot days can not only feel
uncomfortable, but they can also prove
life-threatening. Elderly men and
women, in particular, are susceptible
to the effects of hot temperatures.
According to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, people ages
65 and older are more prone to heat
stroke and heat-related stress than
those of other ages. Seniors’ bodies are
not able to adjust to sudden changes
in temperature as quickly as younger
people’s. A chronic condition that
affects the body’s response to heat, as
well as taking certain prescription
medications also may play a role in
seniors’ susceptibility to the heat.
The City of Sacramento Department
of Parks and Recreation says that around
370 deaths from heat-related illnesses
occur across the United States each
year. Nearly half of those deaths are
people who are 65 and older. Prolonged
heat exposure can take quite a toll on
the average person. Factor in the more
Special concerns of LGBT caregivers
Caribbean L 34 ife, July 19–25, 2019
delicate health of many seniors, and the
hot weather can be quite dangerous.
Further compounding the problem
is higher energy costs. Seniors living on
fi xed incomes may not be able to afford
to turn on air conditioners because of
the power draw.
There are different types of heatrelated
injuries, though heat exhaustion
and heat stroke are the most common.
Here are signs that a person may be
experiencing one or the other.
• Heavy sweating
• Fast, weak pulse rate
• Fast and shallow breathing
• Extremely high body temperature
(more than 105-degrees
• Red, hot and dry skin
• Absence of sweat
• Throbbing headache
What to do
Friends or family
members should check in
with an elderly relative
when the weather is
especially warm to
ensure she is safely
handling the heat.
In addition, people of all ages can
take the following precautions to keep
cool when the temperatures rise:
• Drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages.
Water and diluted fruit juices can help
rehydrate the body quickly.
• Restrict physical activity.
• Take a cool shower or bath or wipe
yourself down with a damp cloth.
• Seek an air-conditioned
environment. For those who won’t
or can’t turn on the air conditioning,
visit a shopping mall or library to keep
cool. Some towns and cities also make
cooling centers available in extreme
• Wear lightweight clothing.
• Try to remain indoors during the
hottest hours of the day.
• Wear hats or use an umbrella
to shield your head from sunshine
• Eat cool foods, but avoid extremely
cold foods. Otherwise you risk the
chance of developing stomach cramps.
susceptible to the heat
Check on an elderly friend or family member at least twice a
day to ensure that she is not experiencing symptoms of heat
exhaustion or heat stroke.
In June we celebrated Pride Month
and the 50th Anniversary of
Stonewall, the start of the modern
Gay Liberation Movement. Over the
past 50 years we’ve learned a lot about
the special concerns of the estimated
three million LGBT caregivers in the
U.S. caring for a person with dementia.
And, we know these challenges remain
LGBT caregivers often face unique
challenges when caring for a person
with Alzheimer’s or dementia. It is
important that we understand these
issues and provide customized care
for the LGBT caregiver. For example,
LGBT caregivers are more likely
to experience isolation than their
straight counterparts. To combat this
feeling of isolation and loneliness,
LGBT caregivers can learn more about
joining support groups that address
issues related to the LGBT community.
More than 25 years ago CaringKind
partnered with SAGE, (Services and
Advocacy for LGBT Elders) to create
LGBT support groups which have been
a lifeline for many.
A member of the dementia caregivers
support group since its inception,
one member has often told the other
members that being in the group has
made her feel more compassionate, and
that it also contributes to her patience
in caring for her mother. She was
quoted saying, “We all speak the same
While many LGBT caregivers are
providing “horizontal caregiving”—in
which they care for another LGBT
adult, such as a partner, spouse, friend,
ex-partner, or neighbor—we also
see many adult children caring for
their parents with dementia or other
conditions. It’s not unusual for an LGBT
adult among a group of siblings to act as
a primary caregiver. It’s also possible
that LGBT adults become caregivers
for their parents or other relatives at
a higher rate than non-LGBT people.
Families may presume that LGBT
adults have more time and availability
because they’re less likely to have
children. Additionally, LGBT people’s
families of origin may not be aware
of their relationships or obligations.
Care for members of their families of
choice may go unnoticed. Adult LGBT
children may also fi nd themselves
caring for parents who have not been
supportive of their LGBT identity.
Many LGBT people rely on
those families of choice rather than
biological ones for their care, and LGBT
caregivers may not be treated with
the same respect or understanding.
They can be especially vulnerable to
caregiver burden, stress, and burnout,
and less likely to seek out supportive
services because of fears of being
treated poorly. More apt than non-
LGBT adults to care for each other in
isolation, LGBT caregivers can face
further strain because there is no one
else involved to share the care. Solo
caregivers are particularly vulnerable,
with compounded health disparities
and few opportunities for respite.
Culturally competent support is
essential for LGBT caregivers. To fi nd
gay-friendly resources, please call
the CaringKind Helpline at 646-744-
2900. Personalized support is only one
phone call away. You are not alone.
LGBT caregivers often face unique challenges when caring for a person with Alzheimer’s