Climate change has been a hot issue over the recent years and is becoming a major global concern. This is a long term shift in the global or regional climate patterns.
Many people mix up climate with weather, but to those who do so, climate is poles apart from weather. Climate is measured over a long period of time and weather can change from day to day, or year to year.
If we talk about the current climate change it is basically the human activities of burning fossil fuels for energy, like natural gas, coal etc. that in return increases greenhouse gases in the atmosphere leading to climate becoming warm.
This is a time-consuming process and takes place over hundreds of years. The human influenced climate change that is happening now is occurring at a much faster rate, unfortunately.
This activity affects the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water that we drink; it has an impact on every individual. So definitely this will affect the human health and specifically the older people.
The elderly adults have a complex relationship to the environment. They are more sensitive to changes in the environment and exposure to toxins, noxious agents, and infectious agents.
Therefore, it can surely be understood that older people are highly vulnerable to climate change related health issues more that young adults or teens. Elder people are the most at risk of suffering from climate change.
This is also factual that climatic changes affect everyone at some point in their lives. This can be because of their age, income, occupation, lifestyle, where they live etc.
It is essential for the older adults and their families or caretakers to be familiar with the impact of climate change on the wellbeing of older people so that they are protected from exposure and can minimize the chances of falling into a serious disease.
Those disease are diabetes, muscles and bone loss, mental dysfunction, communication issues that include difficulty in hearing or speaking, physical functions like walking, climbing stairs etc are also slowed down.
As we age our ability to adequately respond to heat can become a serious problem. Old people are at an increased risk of indulging in heat related illness called Hyperthermia.
This can include heat strokes, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, swelling of ankles and feet due to heat. Certain medicine intakes by the elderly, for blood pressure or cholesterol, reduce the body’s ability to thermo-regulate.
As for the heat strokes, which may potentially appear to be fatal, is heavily damaging as older adults are comparatively less mobile and are thus less able to move to cooler areas during a heat wave.
They may also be socially isolated and less able to seek help. Older people who have a higher risk should stay indoors and avoid exposure to the heat. They should try to drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
In the past few months, fires have been explicitly seen throughout different areas of the world. Such changing weather patterns and more intense and frequent wildfires also raise the amount of pollution, dust and smoke in the air.
Poor air quality aggravates respiratory conditions usual in older adults such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).
Air pollution also increases the risk of heart attack in adults especially those who are obese and diabetic. In return, these changes will eventually increase the number of emergency department visits and hospital admissions, even for healthy older adults.
As the climate changes occur, there is an increase in the rates and intensity of floods, hurricanes, tsunamis and droughts etc. It is pretty obvious that older people have a much higher adverse effect than the youngers.
If an extreme event requires evacuation, older adults have high risk of both physical and mental health impacts. Some of the most vulnerable are people with disabilities, with chronic medical conditions, or living in nursing homes or assisted-living facilities.
Health impacts could be made worse by obtrusions in medical care and challenges associated with transporting patients with their necessary medication, medical records, and any equipment like oxygen.
Extreme events can also cause power outages that can affect electrically-powered medical equipment and elevators, leaving some people without treatment or the ability to evacuate.
Climate change increases the contamination risk for sources of drinking water and recreational water. Older adults are at high risk of contracting gastrointestinal illnesses from polluted water.
Those already in poor health are more likely to suffer severe health consequences including death.
Climate change and increased temperatures will lead to ticks and mosquitoes increasing their ranges and being present for longer seasons.
This means there will be a greater risk of being bitten by disease-carrying ticks and mosquitoes.
Lyme disease and other viruses, which is spread by ticks and mosquitoes, poses a greater health risk among older adults with already weakened immune systems and are therefore frequently reported in such individuals.
Older adults and their families should consider how the condition of their health and home affects their exposure to the negative impacts of climate change.
Each individual can play an integral role at several levels; in your own family, through direct patient care, and in your communities and beyond to prevent health marginalization and deterioration in vulnerable older citizens.
Be an advocate within your healthcare organization and community for policy changes that include implementing climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.
Take measures to ensure that older patients are well-informed and aware about climate risks to health, and work with your organization’s leadership to include pertinent questions on health histories, post visible signage about climate change health risks, and share written literature.
Volunteer with local social service or government agencies to serve as a responder during a disaster.
At a more macro level, you can participate in efforts to address policy implications of global climate change for example, advocating for a national smoke health warning system and emergency services for at-risk older adults.
You can also work to implement policies to lift restrictions on prescription refills in the face of an impending emergency or participate in developing a plan to address extreme heat or cold events.
Climate change is real, it is no imagination. And every individual of this planet has all the rights to fight and ensure the well-being of themselves and others.
Take every step you can to stop the damage that’s been done before it’s too late. It definitely isn’t wrong to say that if such measures are not taken, this world will no longer be a place to inhabit.
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