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New Mexico Lawyers Discuss Dangers of Weather Exposure


Dangers of Exposure for Seniors

Exposure to the elements can be dangerous for seniors, in both winter and summer weather. This is a major risk for older nursing home residents with dementia, in cases of elopement or abandonment. Nursing homes and their staff have a responsibility to protect older people in their care from the dangers of exposure to cold weather or excessive heat.

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Exposure in Cold Weather: What Are the Dangers?

Hypothermia is the main risk for elderly people exposed to the cold. This condition occurs when body temperatures drop into the lower ranges. Older people lose body heat faster, and hypothermia can develop quickly. When body temperature drops to 95°F or lower, it can cause serious health issues in seniors, such as kidney problems, liver damage, heart attack, or worse.

Being outside in the cold, or inside a cold building, can lead to hypothermia in an older person. Nursing home residents may develop hypothermia if rooms in the facility are not kept warm enough.

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What Makes Seniors Susceptible to Hypothermia?

As mentioned above, older people lose body heat faster, and they may not be aware of how cold they are, because of body changes that come with aging. Strong winds can lower body temperatures quickly when seniors are outdoors. Certain prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications can lower body heat, and so can physical inactivity.

Diseases and health conditions can make it more difficult to stay warm and increase the risk of hypothermia. These conditions include:

  • Thyroid problems: Hashimoto’s and other thyroid conditions can make it difficult for the body to maintain a normal temperature.
  • Diabetes: This common condition affects blood flow and warmth, particularly in the extremities.
  • Dementia and memory loss: Health conditions that affect cognitive function may cause a senior to wander or go outside in cold weather without proper clothing.

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Exposure to the Sun and Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., affecting approximately one in five people, as stated by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). While most types of skin cancer can be treated successfully when caught early, melanoma can be fatal. Exposure to UV rays from the sun dramatically increases the risk of developing skin cancer at any age.

In the high desert climate of parts of New Mexico, seniors have greater exposure to UV rays when they are outdoors. Older people may be more susceptible to skin cancer because of accumulated exposure from living longer. In addition, aging weakens the immune system, reduces healing capacity, makes the skin thinner and less elastic, and diminishes defenses against skin cancer.

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Dangers of Exposure in Cases of Elopement, Abandonment, and Nursing Home Neglect

Many nursing home residents are not able to live independently and cannot meet their own needs. When nursing staff does not provide proper care and help residents meet their basic needs, seniors can be put at risk for elopement, abandonment, and neglect.

In a nursing context, elopement can be defined as unsupervised wandering, with the resident leaving the facility and becoming exposed to the elements. Abandonment occurs when a nursing home fails to provide the care a resident requires, which may result in elopement and exposure. When nursing home staff neglect residents with dementia, they may also wander outdoors and away from the facility. Each scenario can lead to serious harm from exposure to the cold in the winter and sun exposure in the summer months.

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Legal Recourse for Exposure of Seniors Due to Nursing Home Neglect

If your elderly loved one has suffered harm from exposure due to nursing home negligence, you may have recourse under the law to recover compensation and hold the responsible parties accountable. Contact the Sorey Law Firm P.L.L.C. at (903) 212-2822 to schedule a free consultation. Our New Mexico nursing home abuse lawyer is an aggressive advocate for injured senior citizens. Founding attorney Dan Sorey has a master’s degree in business administration and understands the corporate aspects, as well as the medical and legal aspects of injury cases based on nursing home abuse and neglect.

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Attorney Dan Sorey founded The Sorey Law Firm, P.L.L.C. with the desire to establish his own legal practice with personal, client-centered legal services that address the specific needs of accident victims and injured parties.


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