Throughout the entire long, cold winter, we eagerly anticipated the heat of summer. What a relief to finally throw open the windows and allow the warm breezes blow through the house! However, now that we’re into the dog days of summer, it’s critical to take precautions to ensure seniors in particular stay safe from heat-related complications.
Why Heat Impacts Seniors Differently
We all know that kids can spend hours playing outside during the summertime, barely breaking a sweat. Young adults are out gardening, mowing the lawn, even jogging in spite of the heat. For older adults, however, there are physiological differences that dramatically increase the risk for dangerous health problems once the weather heats up. Poor circulation, inefficient sweat glands, chronic illnesses, medications, and more are typical in aging, and can result in:
- Heat stroke
- Heat edema
- Heat syncope
- Heat cramps
- Heat exhaustion
- And more
Signs to Watch for
Watch out for these symptoms anytime a senior 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
If you notice any of these heat-related symptoms, the senior needs prompt medical attention. Call 911 and have the senior lie down in a cooler environment. Place a cool, damp cloth on the senior’s wrists, neck, armpits, and groin. If possible, have the senior sip on water or juice, but nothing with alcohol or caffeine. A spray bottle full of cold water can also be used to mist the senior.
The very best plan of action, however, is prevention. Following these guidelines will help older adults safely enjoy the summertime:
- Stay in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible, especially through the hottest parts of the day. Outdoor activities can be scheduled during the early morning or evening.
- Make sure the older adult remains hydrated. Plain water as well as carbohydrate-electrolyte beverages (like Gatorade) are best.
- When outdoors, seek out shaded locations, while avoiding over-exertion.
- Select light-colored clothing in breathable materials, such as cotton or linen, along with a wide-brimmed hat.
- Always wear sunscreen.
- Make sure seniors are drinking plenty of fluids
- Provide transportation to enjoyable, air-conditioned excursions such as the mall, museums, or the library
- Engage in fun activities in the home, such as arts and crafts and favorite interests and hobbies
- And much more
Email or call us at 515-292-2650 for a free in-home consultation for more information on our top-rated respite care in Des Moines and the surrounding communities. For a full list of all of the communities where we provide care, please visit our Service Area page.