The scorching summer temperatures take a heavy toll on seniors when precautions are not taken. In the US, older individuals over the age of 65 are among the 40 percent of people who succumb to heat-related fatalities, according to a study conducted by the University of Chicago Medical Center.
An aged body has limited defenses against the hot weather. Seniors are unable to regulate their body temperatures to the same level as young adults, making them vulnerable to the summer sun’s merciless rays. Certain medications prevent an aging body from adequately controlling its temperatures. Older people also dehydrate quickly without regular liquid replenishment. Dehydration leads to the blood thickening, a life-threatening effect that stresses the heart.
Seniors can still lounge in the summer weather and enjoy the season’s numerous advantages. Older individuals, however, benefit from safeguarding themselves during the hottest months of the year.
Water is the most accessible self-cooling mechanism. Beverages, such as cool water, should be consumed several times throughout the hot days. Seniors experience what is known as “delayed thirst response” and have already started on the path toward dehydration when the first sign of thirst arises. Seniors should not wait until they are thirsty to drink water.
When grabbing a cold drink, make sure it is non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated. Caffeine has the unwanted effect of causing the body to lose greater amounts of fluids.
Eat a Balanced Diet
While reaching for a cool beverage, lay frozen grapes upon your plate. Frozen snacks, like popsicles or frozen peas, are an effective way to cool down on a blistering afternoon.
Plus, seniors should eat foods, like fruits and raw vegetables, that have a high water and potassium content and contain plenty of nutrients and electrolytes. Tomato juice is recommended by health experts, since the drink contains significant levels of much-needed potassium that is often lost through sweat. Meals should be light, such as freshly made pasta salad, rather than hot and heavy, like meatloaf.
Draw the Shades
The home cools down dramatically when the shades are kept closed, especially during the midafternoon, when the sun is at its peak. Experts reveal that up to 30 percent of summer heat comes from the windows and can transform an ordinarily temperate room into a blazing oven. Drawing the curtains can remarkably reduce inside temperatures by up to 20 degrees.
Avoid Running Appliances
While the shades are closed and the home is cool, avoid the urge to cook a pot roast. Turning the oven on to 425 degrees on a sweltering day elevates the temperatures inside the home.
Similarly, large, heat-generating appliances, like the washing machine, should be utilized at night, when the climate is cooler.
Visit Air-conditioned Spots
Seniors are far from being restricted to their homes on a hot summer day. Venture out to air-conditioned places, like libraries, movie theaters, shopping malls or recreation centers to beat the heat. Many public areas like these are free, so stay cool and active during summer.
Dress to Stay Cool
Ward off the sun’s rays by dressing in light-colored, cotton apparel. Lightweight layers can be removed or added as the temperatures fluctuate. Darker colored clothing will absorb the sun’s rays, leaving you seemingly wrapped in a makeshift sauna.
Carefully Select Activities
Choose weather-appropriate activities. Stay out of the direct sunlight and instead opt for a swim or an afternoon of water aerobics in the local senior’s recreation center. Outdoor leisure activities should be postponed for a more temperate day.
During the hottest parts of the day, typically midafternoon when the sun is at its highest, avoid outdoor exercises. Stay active indoors, out of the heat.
A towel drenched in cold water is a heaven send on a blazing day. Seniors can engage in a cool wipe down with a washcloth for immediate relief. Cool showers with streams of water that are set to below the average body temperatures will instantly provide a break from the effects of the heat.
Be Aware of Symptoms of Heat Illnesses
Recognizing symptoms of heat-related illnesses can save a senior’s life. Signs of hyperthermia, when the body reaches abnormally high temperatures, include the following:
- Body temps that soar to 102 degrees Fahrenheit or above
- Emotional changes, including moodiness, confusion and anger
- Unsteadiness or staggering movements
- Dry, hot skin without the presence of sweat
- Strong, fast pulse or slow, weak pulse
Signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion in a senior should be addressed immediately by moving the individual to a cool place. If the senior’s symptoms do not improve, respond by calling for emergency medical attention.
When seniors live alone, it is critical that family members or neighbors check on them frequently, especially during a heat wave. Older individuals are at greater risk for heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Families who are unable to supervise the conditions of an elderly loved one during the hot season can utilize the services of an in-home caregiver.
Hiring a caregiver from an in-home senior care agency, like Assisting Hands Home Care, gives families peace of mind. A dependable caregiver will arrive at the family home to provide care for the elderly individual. Support includes non-medical home care, such as companionship or assistance with eating and drinking. A reliable caregiver is available to transport the senior to the pool for recreation on a scorching day if the senior is unable to drive. A professional caregiver will also accompany the older individual on walks so that he or she gets plenty of exercise. Help with shopping for and preparing healthy, balanced meals that are appropriate for summer weather are also provided by an Assisting Hands Home Care caregiver.