With the nation experiencing some of the hottest temperatures this summer, it is important to know some essential summer safety for seniors. Seniors are more likely to have a chronic health condition that reacts negatively in extreme heat, or take prescription medications that severely impair the ability to regulate their core temperature. As a caregiver for an aging loved one, you will need to make an effort to keep them from overheating in dangerous summer weather. Some of the following tips can help.
- Have friends, family, or caregivers check in on seniors when you are unable to do so. Providing at-home health services can be a valuable tool for keeping seniors safe in their own homes.
- Try to help plan activities for your loved one that do not require going outdoors during peak hours of the day when it is hottest.
- Swimming or water aerobics are two safe ways seniors can get their exercise during the hot summer months. If they must exercise outdoors, insist they exercise early in the morning or late in the afternoon to decrease exposure time to heat.
- Give seniors plenty of fluids during the day. Try to avoid giving them any alcoholic and caffeinated beverages, as these both have negative effects when trying to hydrate.
- Provide seniors with foods and beverages that contain sodium and potassium, as they help to restore the body’s electrolyte balance when seniors lose fluids. Some ideas are soups, soft fruits, vegetables that provide potassium, and sports drinks (like Gatorade) containing electrolytes.
In addition, it is vital to recognize the signs of dehydration or heat stroke. The most commonly seen signs of dehydration in seniors are extreme thirst, mental confusion, irritable moods and poor elasticity of the skin. Dehydration can also make seniors more susceptible to dizziness and falls.
Heat strokes are very serious, life-threatening emergencies caused by heat. When an elderly person cannot control their internal temperature, the body temperature rises very quickly. They are unable to sweat and unable to cool down. Seniors could experience a body temperature of 106 or more within less than 15 minutes. A heat stroke can cause death if not treated properly. Some signs of a heat stroke are body temperatures above 103, red and dry skin, bounding pulse, severe headache and nausea. If you suspect your loved one is showing signs of heat stroke, seek medical attention immediately.