heat, elderly, heat illness, hot weather

Women sit near a fan in a common-room of a rest home. (credit: Johanna Leguerre/AFP/Getty Images)

TARRANT COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – The sun and sweltering heat continue to bear down on North Texas.

Wednesday’s temperature marked the 19th straight day with temperatures over 100-degrees.

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So early into summer, the oppressive heat has already contributed to a number of deaths across the area.

The heat is suspected in the deaths of at least three people in Wise County alone, two of them, both elderly women, lived in the same small town of Chico.

According to her brother, Jean Mowery, 82, had air conditioning, but rarely turned it on because she was frugal. Now, the medical examiner is looking into whether that played a role in her death.

Officials suspect the heat may have contributed to the death of Nina Boldyreff, 85, as well. The Chico woman didn’t like to run her air conditioner either, her grandson John Muns told CBS 11 News.

An autopsy ruled a heart condition as the official cause of death for Boldyreff, but the medical examiner believes the heat may have made the condition worse.

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Donna Brown, with the Wise County Committee on Aging, says it isn’t uncommon among the aging population to go without air conditioning. “There’s no one who should be going without air,” she said. “We had a lady that was on our services that did not want to [run air conditioning] because of the utility bills, and I told her no, you have to have your air, and if it comes to the point you can’t pay your bill, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Mike Hensley is with the Area Agency on Aging and he told CBS 11 News while extreme heat is dangerous for everyone, there are special concerns for the elderly. “As we age, our system of cooling our body decreases so it’s one of those things that when you get overheated you get overheated before you realize it,” he explained. “So it’s very dangerous.”

No matter how rural the area, resources are available to assist the elderly especially during the extreme heat.

The Area Agency on Aging and local and county committees on aging can connect senior citizens with organizations, programs and church groups that provide utility assistance, box fans, transportation, meals and other necessities.

“There’s a lot of places you can call and get help,” Brown said, “and if they can’t help you, they we’ll find someone who can.”

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Wise County officials are also trying to determine if heat played a role in the death of a Roanoke man who was working on a drilling site near Alvord. His body has been sent to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner, but heat is a suspected factor.