The heat of summer can be grueling for even the most fit and active people. For seniors, there are real dangers that ought to be taken seriously, particularly during the hottest times of year. This is especially applicable when considering having your senior loved ones accompany friends and family on outings, potentially away from the relief of climate-controlled environments.
Here are some things you should do for your senior loved ones once the temperature starts to rise into the dog-days of summer:
Talk to the Doctor or Nurse
First and foremost, have a conversation with the doctor or nurse who is caring for your loved one. Some medications don’t do well in high temperatures and may begin to break down or lose their potency. Additionally, you’ll want to be sure if any adjustments to dosages need to be made to account for higher body temperatures or harder working metabolisms. Does your loved one have any health conditions that make them especially at risk in the heat? Their healthcare provider can identify these conditions and help you form a plan to keep them safe.
Make a List of Emergency Contacts
Keep it in plain sight or easily found and accessed. It can help to create specific contacts for specific potential emergencies. The doctor may not always be the right person to call first in every situation. For example, if your loved one is dependent on medical equipment such as a wheelchair or oxygen, you will want to have a contact for extra supplies and potential repairs. Try to think of what needs may arise, and link those to a specific contact.
It also helps the people on the list if they know what their role is as an emergency contact, and what specifically may be needed from them if they do happen to receive an emergency call.
Stay in Touch
Staying in regular contact with your loved one helps to ensure that you’ll know if any situations begin to arise. You can also rest easier knowing that you are on top of things.
Hydration, Hydration, Hydration
This can be said for all of us, but as we get older our bodies become less effective at rationing the water stores within them. This means that the elderly can be more susceptible to dehydration than those whose bodies are working at regular efficiency.
The Right Clothes
Choosing the right clothing is key to comfort and safety during summer heat. Breathable fabrics are always helpful, but many people find synthetic fibers such as polyester retain more heat than natural ones like cotton.
Lighter colors will absorb less heat and help keep those internal temperatures in check.
It’s also a good idea to consider carrying a spray bottle full of water for the occasional misting. Some folks may not want this, but it’s easy to tote, and can be a life-saver if you end up outdoors unexpectedly or longer than anticipated. The key here is preparedness!
Many seniors experience sensitivity to sunlight, which can cause irritation or exacerbate existing eye conditions. UV-protective sunglasses are a must. When worn consistently, they can help preserve vision.
Wearing a Hat
Lightweight, breathable hats that provide lots of shade to the face, neck, and shoulders also go a long way to keep your elder loved one comfortable. They can help maximize the enjoyment of an outing with family.
For those with hair that has thinned or has been lost, a hat is a necessary accessory. Sunscreen is also extremely important for summer safety and should be applied at regular intervals.
Watch the time, minimize durations of exposure to whatever extent possible, and if physical exertion is part of the program for the day, be sure to step up the water intake, rest periods, and check in frequently on your loved one’s state of wellness.
Warning Signs to Watch For
If you notice any of the following symptoms, retreat immediately to an air-conditioned environment, get your loved one to lie down, and even apply ice packs if available. These symptoms can indicate hyperthermia, which can snowball into full-blown heatstroke if not mitigated:
- Body temperature exceeding 104 degrees
- Confusion, agitation, or unusual behavior
- Dry or flushed skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid Pulse
- Heavy Breathing
- Lack of sweating that would be appropriate for the conditions
- Dizziness or fainting
If lowering the body temperature and lying down does not seem to halt the advancement of hyperthermia, seek medical attention immediately.
Summertime can be enjoyed by people of all ages, but it’s always best with preparation and awareness of the potential risks. The summer isn’t the only time that seniors are at risk, and steps should be taken to make sure that seniors are getting exercise and maintaining a proper diet. The fact remains however, extreme weather like the summer heat can affect our elderly loved ones much more than a middle-aged adult. Contact a senior care manager for additional tips on caring for your elderly loved ones during the summer.