As nurses, we are deeply concerned about the health impacts of climate change and extreme weather events on our populations. The heat dome of 2021 claimed the lives of over 600 British Columbians, 90% of them were over the age of 60. We believe that a lot can be done to empower older adults to protect themselves from heat stroke in their homes and neighbourhoods.
During the early part of July, teams of nurses set out to offer four educational sessions on heat strokes. We covered the signs and symptoms and most importantly focused on means to safeguard against heat strokes. These were offered in each of our Comox Valley municipalities and to K’omox First Nations Elders.
Participants were eager to share their experiences of the previous summer and how they had managed to cope. Some of them expressed sadness at losing loved ones during the heat dome. There was also laughter and wisdom as we explored strategies to stay cool including how to make a homemade ‘swamp cooler’ to use as an air conditioner!
Older adults were encouraged to share this newfound knowledge with others and to continue discussing this topic in small groups at a monthly Preparedness-Cafe meeting that they can host. They shared how this is a healthy way to contribute to the well-being of their community while feeling a strong sense of purpose checking-in on neighbours during heat waves.
We are grateful to the Comox Valley Community Foundation for this Neighborhood Small grant that helped build a community of resilience in the advent of future heat events.