Parades, picnics, gardening, and festivals are all fun summer outdoor activities that seniors enjoy. But spending too much time in the summer heat can also be detrimental to an older adult’s health. Sunburn, dehydration, and overexertion are all common warm-weather concerns for the elderly. As informal caregivers, following these safety tips will help ensure that seniors stay safe and comfortable all summer long.
Heat-Related Problems in the Elderly
As the average person ages, their body’s ability to respond to intense summer heat diminishes. In addition to sunburn and bug-borne diseases, older adults are at higher risk for developing these heat-related illnesses (hyperthermia):
- Heat edema (swelling in ankles and feet)
- Heat syncope (sudden dizziness after exercising)
- Heat cramps
- Heat exhaustion
The elderly are more prone to develop hyperthermia because of these risk factors:
- Poor circulation
- Heart, lung, and kidney diseases
- High blood pressure
- Reduced sweating (hyperhidrosis) caused by certain medications
- Being dehydrated
- Being excessively overweight or underweight
Maintaining Seniors’ Safety and Minimizing Summer Threats
Thankfully, most heat-related issues are preventable. Here are some safety tips on how to safeguard seniors’ health during the hot summer months:
Keep them hydrated
Seniors are more prone to dehydration because their bodies can no longer conserve as much water as they could when they were younger. Since sense of thirst also diminishes with age, make sure that your loved one drinks at least 8 glasses (about 2 liters) of water or sports drinks daily. Alcohol and caffeinated beverages should be avoided.
Be sure to apply a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher to your senior’s skin before venturing out in the sun. When engaging in water activities, reapply the sunscreen often. Another safety tip is to avoid sunlight during peak hours by planning outdoor activities either first thing in the morning or later in the evening. To preserve vision, encourage your loved one to wear sunglasses with lenses that block UVA and UVB rays during daylight hours.
Dress them appropriately
Your senior’s summer wardrobe should be filled with loose-fitting, light-colored clothing. Cotton and other natural fabrics are more breathable and lightweight than synthetic fabrics. Also, find them a wide-brimmed hat that keeps the sun off their face and neck.
Keep them cool
Prolonged exposure to high temperatures can be life-threatening for those of any age, especially seniors. If your loved one’s residence isn’t air-conditioned, encourage them to visit a friend or relative’s home whenever temperatures become excessive. You can also keep your senior cool by taking them to public places like a shopping mall, movie theater, library, or senior center.
Apply bug spray
Older adults are more susceptible to bug-borne diseases like West Nile, Zika, and Lyme’s Disease. Protect your loved one with bug spray, especially at night. Remember to wash the bug spray off their sensitive skin once they come back indoors.
Watch for heatstroke
Heatstroke can quickly put your loved one’s life at risk. Watch for heatstroke warning signs, like high body temperature, confusion, nausea, and dizziness. If your senior presents with any of these signs, promptly seek medical attention.
If You Suspect a Problem
In cases when you suspect heatstroke or another heat-related illness, take these steps:
- If it looks like heatstroke, promptly call 911.
- Get them out of the heat and into a shaded, air-conditioned place.
- If they can swallow safely, offer them fluids like water or fruit juice. Avoid beverages that contain alcohol or caffeine.
- Apply a cold, wet cloth to their wrists, armpits, neck, and groin area.
- If it is otherwise safe for them to do so, encourage your loved one to bathe, shower, or sponge off with cool water.
An Extended Family in Your Loved One’s Home
Protecting your aging loved one from heat-related illnesses and other summer threats isn’t easy when you can’t always be there. As a locally owned and family-operated provider, Colonial Home Care Services makes it easy for families to keep their aging loved ones safe- even with little notice in an emergency. At Colonial Home Care Services, we take great pride in carefully selecting and thoroughly screening our caregivers to ensure all have the right skills, knowledge, experience, and personality.
As a family-trusted home care provider serving Orange County, Long Beach, Mission Viejo, and surrounding communities, Colonial Home Care Services has been providing peace of mind to those we serve for over 25 years. To learn more now about our award-winning home care services, or to schedule a FREE in-home assessment for a senior in our service area today, please visit us at www.colonialhomecareservices.com.