Summer is anticipated by people of all ages. The elderly, however, are advised to be especially vigilant and careful in hot weather, as their bodies respond differently to high levels of heat than younger people. The following are safety precautions seniors should take when temperatures soar.
Seniors are more prone to heat-related illnesses during the hotter months. People aged 65 and over who live alone, suffer from chronic medical conditions, or regularly take medications are at risk for hyperthermia, which is a term for a collective group of heat-related ailments.
Heat-related illnesses that fall under hyperthermia include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat edema (the swelling of ankles or feet when temperatures are high), heat cramps and heat syncope (the sudden dizziness that occurs after physical exercise in hot weather conditions).
Additional risk factors for hyperthermia in the elderly population include residing in extremely hot environments, overdressing for the weather, lack of transportation, attending events in overcrowded places and lacking the cognitive ability to respond appropriately to hot and humid weather conditions.
Aging people are unable to respond quickly to sudden increases in temperature as younger people do. Such physical changes in elderly individuals cause their skin to produce insufficient sweat, which fails to cool the body. Chronic medical issues also cause seniors to be vulnerable to heat stress.
Certain medications impair the body’s ability to regulate temperature or inhibit perspiration. Amphetamines, for instance, raise the body’s temperature. Sedatives reduce a senior’s ability to respond to physical discomfort, which increases the likelihood that symptoms of heat stress will be ignored.
Heat stress can be mild and result in cramps or rashes. Or, hyperthermia can be severe and potentially lead to life-threatening conditions, like heat stroke. In fact, heat stroke is the severest type of heat-related illness. Seniors living in homes without air conditioning or fans are at the greatest risk.
What is heat stroke?
Heat stroke occurs when the aging body is unable to control its temperature. As a result, the body temperature rapidly rises to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. The body is unable to perspire and cool down. Death or disability can occur without medical treatment.
What are symptoms of heat stroke?
An aging individual may display varying signs of heat stroke. Body temperature may exceed 103 degrees Fahrenheit; the skin may appear red, hot and dry (without sweating); pulse is rapid and strong; dizziness and nausea may accompany a headache; and, heat exhaustion can result.
How should caregivers handle heat stroke?
Seniors overcome by heat stroke require prompt medical attention. Caregivers should move the senior to a shady area and cool her quickly. Means of cooling the body include placing the senior in a cool shower, sponging the individual with cool water or spraying her with cool water from a hose.
What is heat exhaustion?
Heat exhaustion is a milder version of heat-related illness. A senior may experience the condition after several days of prolonged exposure to the high temperatures of summer. A lack of adequate fluid intake or unbalanced fluid replacement can also cause a bout of heat exhaustion in the elderly.
What are symptoms of heat exhaustion?
Warning signs of heat exhaustion are many and varied but include heavy perspiration, muscle cramps, cool and moist skin, tiredness, and a fast and weak pulse. Breathing may be fast and shallow. Weakness, dizziness, and nausea can accompany heat exhaustion.
How do caregivers prevent heat-related illnesses?
Seniors and their caregivers are urged to monitor outdoor weather conditions. Listen to weather reports. High summer heat should prompt seniors to stay indoors. High temperatures and high humidity levels put older people at a greater risk for heat-related ailments.
Hydration is key. Seniors are encouraged to drink adequate amounts of water, fruit juice or vegetable juice. Limit caffeine and alcoholic beverages. Due to medical conditions, some seniors are instructed to avoid drinking too many liquids; in these cases, consult the physician about alternate solutions.
Create a cool home environment. Pull down the shades or curtains during the hottest parts of the day. Limit use of the oven during hot, daytime temperatures. At night, open the windows. If an air conditioner and fans are available, turn them on when outdoor temperatures rise.
Caregivers may help seniors dress properly for the hot weather. Choose natural fabrics, like cotton, since they are cooler than synthetic materials. Exercise indoors when the outside weather is hot. Plan trips during non-rush-hour times in order to avoid crowded places.
Seniors who live in homes without air conditioning are advised to seek cool environments, such as a friend’s house, senior center or library. A caregiver can provide transportation to cooler places. Senior centers may also provide transportation. Avoid waiting for the bus in the outside heat.
Dallas summers can reach scorching temperatures. During the hottest months of the year, seniors are advised to take precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses. Professional caregivers from Assisting Hands Home Care ensure that the elderly remain protected from high summer heat.
Our reliable home care services are comprehensive. We provide transportation, whether it is to a doctor’s appointment or to a senior center. Caregivers shop for groceries, prepare balanced meals, and ensure the senior consumes sufficient liquids throughout each day, especially the hottest ones.
Staying indoors during blistery summer days can feel isolating. Assisting Hands Home Care providers offer pleasant companionship to keep loneliness and social isolation at bay. We take care to build bonds with elderly care recipients and get to know them through discussing hobbies and life experiences.
Assisting Hands Home Care services are flexible and accommodate the nonmedical needs of seniors. We offer short-term care in the form of respite care, 24-hour care, live-in care, post-hospitalization care, and hospice care. Alzheimer’s care and overnight care are also areas of expertise.
Families who are concerned about an elderly loved one in Richardson, Highland Park, University Park, Dallas TX, and the surrounding areas of Dallas and Tarrant counties during the hot summer months are encouraged to consult Assisting Hands Home Care for the most compassionate and skilled senior care in the area. Call (214) 865-7870 for an in-home consult.