The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many of us to feel higher levels of anxiety and isolation, but many seniors have really been affected by months spent indoors away from loved ones. Getting seniors outside into the fresh air while practicing proper social distancing guidelines is more important than ever for both physical and mental well being. Fortunately, the warm days of late summer are an ideal time to take advantage of the sunshine! While we’re all focused on making sure our senior loved ones are taking proper safety measures during the pandemic, there are some other considerations we may forget when they’re spending time outside in the heat. Here are three areas to keep in mind:
Many people are surprised to learn that dehydration is a common cause of hospitalization among the elderly. During the aging process, thirst sensation naturally decreases, so it’s more important than ever to make sure seniors drink enough fluids. Early signs of dehydration include dry mouth, fatigue, dizziness and muscle cramps. The following tips can help ensure your loved ones stays hydrated:
- Eat more fruits and veggies. Summer-ripe picks such as cucumbers, plums, peaches and lettuce have extra water content and are an added way to boost hydration.
- Keep fluids within easy reach. Keeping a bottle next to a favorite outside chair or carrying a portable water bottle is a great way to encourage drinking throughout the day.
- Schedule a time to drink. If you’re having trouble ensuring your loved one drinks enough during the day, you might want to set a timer or schedule it on your phone every couple of hours.
- Make it interesting. If your loved one is bored with water, adding fruit slices can make it more interesting. Offering some low sugar lemonade, Pedialyte and fruit juices can also help break the monotony. Soda, coffee and alcohol are not good fluids. We only recommend water, flavored water or other non-alcoholic low sugar drinks.
Protect Against Heat Exhaustion:
Heat illnesses are of special concern for seniors because they’re much more affected by summer heat. As people age, their bodies become less efficient at regulating temperature. Dehydration increases the risk of developing a heat-related illness, so it’s important to follow the tips outlined above to make sure seniors are getting enough fluids. If seniors are going to be outside, it’s also important to make sure they’re not outdoors during peak hours of heat and sun and that they dress lightly. You should also check with your loved one’s doctor to find out if medications or treatments, like diuretics or low salt diets could affect the way their body regulates temperature.
Watch for Balance Issues:
The threat of an injury-inducing fall strikes fear in many seniors and their caregivers. Outdoor hazards, such as a bumpy sidewalk or uneven ground can cause even more concern. But taking the proper precautions can ensure that seniors can still enjoy the outdoors. Preventative measures for avoiding falls include:
- Wearing low-healed shoes with rubber soles for more solid traction.
- Using hand rails when going up and down steps
- Stopping at curbs and checking the height before stepping up or down.
- Using a walker or cane
- Considering wearing hip protectors or hip pads for added protection in case of a fall.
Getting outside in a safe manner is such an important activity for seniors, especially during the pandemic. If you find that you need extra home care and companion care assistance to make sure your loved one is getting more activity (both outside and inside), Assisting Hands is ready to help! If you live in Bethesda, Reston or other areas within the Maryland/Northern Virginia region, call us at 301-363-2580 and let’s discuss how we can help.