Double Trouble Puts Older Illinoisans At Risk

Soaring Temperatures and Cuts to LIHEAP Funds Hurt Older Residents

Jul 18, 2015, 12:36 ET from AARP Illinois

CHICAGO, July 18, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With sweltering temperatures across Illinois this weekend and over the next few days, it's double trouble for older residents who are at risk because of heat-related problems such as heatstroke and exhaustion, and who will not get any relief from their air conditioned because of the current budget stalemate in Springfield that led to the suspension of the state's LIHEAP program, among other measures.

"LIHEAP funds were extended to provide cooling assistance, in order to help prevent another disaster like the Chicago heat wave that a death toll of nearly 740 individuals, most of whom were elderly, poor residents," said AARP Illinois State Director Bob Gallo. "But these funds are currently unavailable because of the budget crisis in our state's capital."

LIHEAP funds were suspended July 1 as the new fiscal year started without a state budget. The funds, administered through the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) provide cooling and heating assistance to about 150,000 low-income Illinois households.

"With the current wave of high temperatures, we urge the Governor and the Legislature to come to an agreement and restore these funds and other critical programs that help older residents and low-income families. People suffer while politicians in Springfield fiddle," Gallo added.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), extreme heat causes an average of 658 deaths every year in the United States. Across the nation, heat-related deaths occur more frequently among males and those ages 65 and older. A 2012 CDC study of heat-related deaths over a 2-week period found that 69% of heat-related deaths occurred at home, and 91% of those homes lacked air conditioning. 

AARP reminds Illinoisans to check in on elderly relatives, friends, and neighbors who may be at particular risk of heat-related health problems such as heatstroke and heat exhaustion. AARP has several quick tips for preventing a heat-related emergency:  

  • Do not engage in strenuous activity.
  • Stay indoors during the hottest times of the day.
  • Close your shades to keep out the sunshine.
  • If you do not have air conditioning, stay on the lower-level in your home --heat rises.
  • Check with your local agency for cool places you can go.
  • Wear lightweight, loose fitting clothing.
  • Drink plenty of water. This helps keep your body cool.