Seniors are more sensitive to heat and cold than people of other ages. In the summer months it is important to make sure that seniors are protected against the heat so that they do not suffer heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Here is what you need to know to keep yours senior safe as the mercury rises.
Older adults don’t adapt well to rapid changes in temperature. When it is 70 degrees outside one day and 90 the next an older person’s body can’t adjust as quickly as a younger person’s can. If there are sustained heat waves, chronic medical conditions and prescription medications can hamper the natural ability of the senior’s body to cool itself down. This makes seniors much more susceptible to heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
During the summer months it is important that you check in on your loved one frequently. The Centers for Disease Control recommends checking in on seniors twice a day during heat waves. When you visit use the following checklist to gauge your loved one’s health and ability to cope with the heat:
- Are they drinking enough water?
- Do they have access to air conditioning?
- Do they know how to keep cool?
- Do they show any signs of heat stress?
You can take precautions to keep your loved one from overheating during the summer months. These simple proactive steps can go a long way to making sure that he or she does not suffer from heat-related illnesses:
- Hydration is very important. Make sure there are lots of different types of liquids on hand that your loved one likes to drink. Place them on the front of the shelf in the refrigerator so that they are easy to see and easy to reach. Educate your loved one about the importance of drinking before feeling thirsty in order to stay well hydrated in the heat. Discourage your loved one from drinking caffeine and/or alcohol in the heat. It dehydrates the body.
- Make sure that your loved one has cool, light colored clothes to wear. It is better for a senior to wear short sleeves or sleeveless tops and a sweater, rather than wearing a heavy top to begin with. Layers allow the senior to respond appropriately when they feel hot or cold.
- If your loved one likes to sit outside or work in the garden, make sure he or she applies sun block every morning. Place the sun block in the bathroom and encourage your loved one to put it on their face, neck, head, and arms after washing up in the morning.
- Insist that your loved one stay indoor during heat waves. Make sure there are enough books, puzzles, movies etc. for entertainment. That will make it easier to stay busy while waiting for the heat wave to end.
- Seniors should have air conditioning in at least one room of their house during the summer months to keep the indoor temperature lower than 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Living and sleeping in the hot air can cause seniors to become overheated and lethargic. That can prevent them from eating and drinking appropriately.
- Keep the house cool by not cooking. Turning on burners and the stove will only add heat to the house. Prepare meals using fresh fruits and vegetables that are power packed with nutrients, easy to prepare and don’t require cooking.
- Encourage your loved one to take a cool shower or bath during the day. If it is not safe for him or her to do so alone, perhaps you can help when you visit. If that is not possible, consider hiring a professional caregiver to assist with bathing during the hot midday hours.
What are the signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion?
Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are medical emergencies. Here are the symptoms of each and the action you should take if you observe a loved one in distress.
Heat stroke symptoms include:
- High body temperature (103°F or higher)
- Hot, red, dry, or damp skin
- Fast, strong pulse
- Feeling dizzy
- Feeling confused
- Losing consciousness (passing out)
What to do if your loved one suffers from heat stroke:
- Call 911 right away- heat stroke is a medical emergency
- Immediately move him or her to a cooler place
- Help lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath
- Do not give the person anything to drink
Heat exhaustion symptoms include:
- Heavy sweating
- Cold, pale, and clammy skin
- Fast, weak pulse
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle cramps
- Feeling tired or weak
- Feeling dizzy
- Fainting (passing out)
What to do if your loved one suffers from heat exhaustion:
- Move him or her to a cool place
- Loosen clothing
- Put cool, wet cloths on his or her body
- Help your loved one to take a cool bath
- Help him or her to sip water
Get medical help right away if your loved one is:
- Throwing up
- Experiencing worsening symptoms
- Exhibiting symptoms that last longer than one hour
Every summer brings at least one heat wave. These suggestions can help keep your loved one cool and prevent dangerous heat stroke or heat exhaustion. If your loved one suffers from dementia and cannot help to implement these precautions, a professional in-home caregiver can help to keep them cool and safe. Contact Family Matters In-Home Care for a free consultation to see how we can help support your family.