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Four Mountain Counties Among Those Slated for Operation Fan Heat Relief

By Sherrie Norris 

With the summer heat soon expected to crank up, four mountain counties will be taking part in the state-wide Operation Fan Heat Relief, which helps at-risk adults stay cool and safe during summer.

From May 1 to October 31, qualifying adults in the counties of Avery, Mitchell, Wilkes and Yancey will be among those across North Carolina able to participate in a summer program designed to offer a more comfortable living environment — and reduce heat related illnesses for older adults and adults with disabilities.

According to a recent press release by the NC Department of Health and Human Services, since 1986, Duke Energy Progress, Duke Energy Carolinas, Valassis Giving Committee and Dominion Resources have made contributions through the Division of Aging and Adult Services to Area Agencies on Aging to purchase fans in support of the summer program known as Operation Fan Heat Relief.

It was noted that no public money is associated with this summer program, “which has been successful because of the concerted effort of 16 regional area agencies on aging, and their local aging and human service provider agencies, which purchase and make fans available to eligible adults.”

Furthermore, the information included, “Air conditioners, in certain counties, can be provided on a client-specific basis for adults with more serious health related illnesses.” 

When asked why only four counties within the Region D Area on Aging were chosen as recipients of this opportunity, Tim Price, Compliance Officer with Region D explained, “OFHR is currently funded through a grant from Duke Energy, and they dictate which counties receive funding. This small annual grant serves Avery, Mitchell, Wilkes and Yancey Counties in our region and is offered through the senior center in each county.”

However, Price added, “While senior centers in our other counties (Alleghany, Ashe and Watauga) do not receive the OFHR grant, people in need of assistance should still reach out to the centers, as they are often able to direct people to additional resources for heating or cooling assistance.”

Furthermore, DHHS noted that as individuals age and develop chronic medical conditions, they are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. “They may also be taking medications that can worsen the impact of extreme heat,” 

The NCDHHS suggests, that In addition to using electric fans, the following tips should be observed to help individuals reduce or avoid heat-related problems:

Hot Weather Tips for Seniors

  • Talk with your doctor and be aware of the medications you take and know, for example, that painkillers can reduce awareness of the heat and diuretics, which promote fluid loss, which can lead to dehydration more often during hot weather.
  • Cool off by taking baths or showers, or placing ice bags or wet towels on the body. 
  • Stay out of direct sunlight, put shades over the windows, and use cross-ventilation and fans to cool rooms. 
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that permits sweat to evaporate. 
  • Drink plenty of liquids such as water, fruit, or vegetable juices and iced tea to replace the fluids lost by sweating. As a person ages, thirst declines. Limit intake of alcoholic beverages or fluids that have too much salt, since it can complicate existing medical problems, such as high blood pressure. 
  • Eat small meals, and eat more often and avoid foods that are high in protein, which increases metabolic (body) heat. 
  • Keep your medicines in a cool, dry place. 
  • Check up on friends or neighbors who live alone. 
  • This can also be a good time to join your local senior center or take advantage of buildings made accessible to seniors during excessive heat. Your community’s public information office can be contacted for additional information. 
  • Take the heat seriously and do not ignore danger signs like nausea, dizziness or lightheadedness, fatigue, confusion, labored breathing, chest discomfort and rapid or erratic pulse. They can all be signs of trouble. Get to a cool place, drink cool water slowly and seek medical help if conditions don’t improve.

To inquire about the program in participating counties, or learn about other safe-summer options for seniors within the Region D Area Agencies on Aging, you may call the following:

Alleghany Senior Center: (336) 372-4640

Ashe Senior Center: (336) 246-4347

Avery Senior Services in Newland 828-733-8220

Mitchell Senior Center: (828) 688-3019

Watauga Senior Center: (828) 265-8090

Wilkes Senior Center: 336) 667-5281

Yancey Senior Center: (828) 682-6011