BUFORD -- When Dorothy Chlopek's air conditioning system started blowing warm air into her house Monday morning, the Buford senior made a couple of phone calls.
Due to financial constraints -- Chlopek, 75, is helping raise five of her grandchildren -- none of those calls were to schedule repairs. Instead, the retired educator sought assistance from Gwinnett County Senior Services, which delivered a window air conditioning unit and two large fans Monday afternoon to help keep Chlopek's home cool in temperatures hovering in the mid-90s.
Through Project ACCES, an acronym for Added Cooling Comfort for our Elderly Seniors, GCSS is making fans available to seniors in need this summer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, elderly people -- those 65 and older -- are more prone to heat stress than younger people as they do not adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature, are more likely to have chronic medical conditions that change the body's responses to heat and are more likely to be taking prescription medications that impair the body's ability to regulate temperatures or medicines that inhibit perspiration.
"A lot of them, they cannot tell their internal body temperature and sometimes they don't even realize they're overheating," said Melanie Miller, public relations specialist with Gwinnett County's Health and Human Services Division who helped deliver the A/C unit and fans to Chlopek.
Project ACCES is in its second year helping keep Gwinnett seniors remain cool on scorching summer days and is made possible through donations -- more than 85 fans and a couple of window A/C units were donated to the effort this year.
While GCSS has done well garnering donations, getting the word out to Gwinnett seniors who might be in need of cooling assistance has been difficult. Eligible seniors are those who are experiencing financial hardship.
Getting seniors to ask for assistance is another challenge GCSS faces.
"The seniors are reluctant to ask for help," said Melanie Miller, public relations specialist with Gwinnett County's Health and Human Services Division. "They have been independent all their lives and to reach out and ask for help, it's a lot for them to do."
Another obstacle for seniors who do seek assistance is the fear they might run across a scam.
"When you're a widow, not only do you not have the money," Chlopek said, "but you're kind of afraid to go out and solicit help because being a widow, they might rip me off and I don't have any money to be ripped off."
Seniors who would like more information on receiving cooling assistance through GCSS can call Adrienne Noble at 678-377-4150.
The CDC encourages those who have elderly relatives or neighbors to check on them twice a day and watch for any signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke and encourage them to drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages more often unless a doctor has limited the amount of fluids the senior should consume.
For more information on heat-related illnesses, visit www.cdc.gov.