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STATE ISSUES CALL TO LICENSED HEALTH CARE FACILITIES: USE EXTREME CAUTION TO PROTECT THE SICK AND ELDERLY

Family Urged To Visit Elderly, Sick at Licensed Facilities; Report Heat-related Symptoms to Staff

Nashville, August 24, 2007

The Tennessee Department of Health is urging all licensed health care facilities in Tennessee to take special precaution in caring for and monitoring the health of the elderly and ill as extreme temperatures continue throughout the state. State health officials are asking facility staff to pay close attention to patients’ water and food consumption levels to ensure these individuals are adequately hydrated and fed during the heat wave. During extreme temperatures people should drink more fluids and eat amounts of food periodically throughout the day.

“Licensed facilities are making us aware of issues that may compromise the health and well-being of patients and residents of the facilities, and we appreciate their continued diligence as temperatures remain high in the coming days,” said Bureau of Health Licensure and Regulation Assistant Commissioner Christy Allen. “We are asking all licensed facility personnel to use their medical expertise and good, sound judgment to protect, promote and improve the health of these vulnerable individuals. We are also asking family members to check on relatives and friends at hospitals and nursing homes. We want them to look for signs of heat-related illness in these patients and report them to caregivers, medical staff, and if necessary to the Department of Health.”

Infants and children under 4 years of age, people over 65, people who are overweight, those who overexert themselves during work or exercise and people who are physically ill (especially those who have heart disease or high blood pressure, take certain medication, or suffer from insomnia, depression or poor circulation) are especially at risk in extreme heat.

Heat stroke, the most life-threatening heat-related illness, occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature, which rises quickly without the ability to cool down. If emergency treatment is not provided, heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability. Symptoms include body temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit; red, hot and dry skin without sweating; rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; and loss of consciousness.

Other illnesses caused by extreme heat include heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sunburn and heat rash. Symptoms include dizziness, heavy sweating, muscle cramps, rapid heart beat, nausea, headaches and cold/clammy skin.

To report suspected violations or deficiencies at a state-licensed health care facility, call1-877-287-0010 toll free. Calls received Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. will be answered or returned the same day by an attendant. Messages left after hours will be returned the following business day. Violations can also be reported by mail. For more information, visit the Department of Health Web site at http://health.state.tn.us/HCF/complaints.htm