The scorching summer temperatures around most of the country can be dangerous for anyone, but even more so for the elderly. How can seniors protect themselves and stay cool this summer?
Kurt Kazanowski MS, RN, CHE, author of A Son’s Journey: Taking Care of Mom and Dad, who is a senior care, homecare and hospice expert, offers these tips:
1. Stay hydrated
Dehydration is one of the main causes of most health problems, not just heat related. To keep everything running efficiently in the body, and keep it cool, water is a must. Encourage them to continually drink water throughout the day even if they aren’t thirsty. Your body needs water way before it tells you through the sensation of thirst. Keep an eye on the consumption of caffeine and alcohol as their intake dries out the body.
2. Notice the time of day
If you have an activity planned, especially one with heavy sun exposure, schedule it accordingly. The hottest times of the summer day are between 12pm and 4pm. Aim for morning or evening when thinking about having a family outing in the summer. Most importantly keep the time limited. There is only so long people of any age can benefit from being in direct sunlight.
3. Dress appropriately and seek shade
Older individual’s skin is particularly sensitive. Encourage them to use sunscreen and bug sprays when necessary. Utilize shade during your summer fun when possible. They can also wear light breathable layers and sun hats to avoid sun exposure if shade is not an option.
4. Watch the index
High heat coupled with high humidity impairs the bodies sweat glands. Therefore, it can’t cool itself properly. The heat index takes the moisture and heat measurements into account. It then reports the temperature ‘it feels like’ outside with multiple variables in mind. There are apps and various websites where you can check the heat index easily.
5. Take it easy
Plan your activities with all family members and their needs in mind. Strenuous activities outdoors are overwhelming to many in the summer. Sometimes turning your activity plans into two-parts is the most successful. If you are inviting your older family members, consider their limitations. Maybe have one part of the family do the hike and meet your parents for lunch after with everyone. That way it is still a social activity but without the stress for them.
6. Utilize AC
Air conditioning is a wonderful asset for people of every age, especially those in hot climates. If seniors do not have AC in their homes, they can take advantage of public places. Libraries, movie theatres, coffee shops and shopping centers all have AC. Taking a cool bath or shower is a good option as well. Other easy options involve cool cloths and ice packs. Make sure these are handy at their home for a quick grab when needed.
7. Know the signs of heat illnesses
Keep an eye out for any signs that seem off or out of the ordinary. Sudden redness in the face, dizziness or nausea are red flags. Sit them down in a cool place with a glass of ice water and take a breath. Any chest pain, erratic breathing, rapid heartbeat or sudden headaches should all be taken seriously. Seek medical attention if it gets worse.