The Milwaukee County medical examiner is investigating the death of an elderly nursing home resident left outside for over three hours in yesterday’s record heat. The 69 year old resident was reportedly left outside in his wheelchair for more than three hours in temperatures reaching 97 degrees by his caretakers at Sunrise Nursing Center, a Milwaukee nursing home.
It is well known that the elderly are at higher risk from heat stress. According to the Center for Disease Control, the elderly are more prone to heat stress than younger people because they do not adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature, they are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat, and they are more likely to take prescription medicines that impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration.
Nursing homes and elder care facilities should be well aware of these risks and have a duty to protect residents from heat stress as we enter the summer season. The decision to take the resident out at all in the high temperature and humid conditions seems highly questionable, but to expose him for more than three hours is inexplicable.