Throughout the entire long, cold winter, we enthusiastically anticipated the warmth of summer. What a relief to finally throw open the windows and let the warm breezes blow through the house! Yet now that we are nearing the middle of the dog days of summer, it is important to take preventative measures to make certain seniors in particular remain safe from heat illness.
Why Heat Impacts Seniors Differently
We all know that children can spend hours playing outside during the summer, barely breaking a sweat. Young adults are out gardening, mowing the lawn, even exercising in spite of the heat and humidity. For seniors, however, there are physiological differences that significantly boost the risk for dangerous health issues once the weather warms up. Poor circulation, inefficient sweat glands, chronic illnesses, medications, and much more are common in aging, and they can bring on:
- Heat stroke
- Heat edema
- Heat syncope
- Heat cramps
- Heat exhaustion
- And more
Heat Illness Signs to Watch For
Watch out for these symptoms whenever an older adult you love spends time in the heat and humidity:
- A body temperature over 104 degrees Fahrenheit (indicating heat stroke)
- Confusion, agitation, and other behavioral changes
- Delirium or coma
- Flushed, dry skin
- A rapid, strong pulse
- Lack of sweating
How to Help
As soon as you notice any of these heat illness warning signs, the individual needs immediate medical attention. Call 911 and have the person lie down in a cooler environment. Place a cool, damp cloth on the older adult’s neck, wrists, armpits, and groin. If possible, have the senior sip on water or juice, but nothing with caffeine or alcohol. A spray bottle full of cold water may also be used to mist the senior.
The very best plan of action, however, is prevention. Following these suggestions can help older adults safely enjoy the summer:
- Stay in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible, especially during the hottest parts of the day. Outdoor activities can be planned during the early morning or evening.
- Make sure the senior remains hydrated. Plain water as well as carbohydrate-electrolyte beverages (like Gatorade) are recommended.
- When outside, seek out shaded locations and avoid over-exertion.
- Wear light-colored clothing in breathable materials, like linen or cotton, coupled with a wide-brimmed hat.
- Always wear sunscreen.
- Make sure older adults are drinking plenty of fluids
- Take care of housework, meal preparation, and other chores around the home
- Provide transportation to enjoyable, air-conditioned locations such as the mall, museums, and the library
- Engage in fun activities at home, such as arts and crafts and favorite hobbies and interests
- And much more
Email or call us at 410-357-9640 for a complimentary in-home assessment for more information about our award-winning Glencoe long term care at home for seniors. For a full list of all of the communities where we provide care, please visit our Service Area page.