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5 Summer Safety Tips For Seniors

keep seniors safe during the summer

Here are some quick tips on how seniors (and their caregivers) can keep cool and enjoy a safe summer.

1. Watch The Temperature

Use your smart phone or smart watch to find out what the temperature is where you are at any time of the day or night.

Once temperatures reach or exceed 80 degrees, it’s considered too hot for most elderly people. I know this may seem baffling as 80 degrees doesn’t seem that warm for most people.

Yet as we age, changes occur that can cause heat intolerance.

One of the main reasons is that as we age, our body’s ability to regulate temperature through our sweat glands and blood circulation tends to decrease.

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2. Be Aware Of Your Heat Intolerance Level

When the temperatures rise past a certain point and you begin to overheat, heat intolerance occurs.

Unlike younger people, seniors cannot handle temperatures in the low-to-mid 80s and certainly not extreme heat such as temperatures in the 90s or the 100s.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “People aged 65 years or older are more prone to heat-related health problems.”

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Several factors impact a senior’s ability to withstand summer heat, including taking medications, having certain chronic medical conditions, and age.

The Effect Of Medications

If your senior parent or loved one is on a list of prescription medications, those pills could do more than combat pain or ward off symptoms.

Some medications can prevent the senior from sweating, which gives their body no means of reacting to high heat. Other medications may interrupt temperature regulation.

Medical Conditions And Heat Intolerance

Even small increases in the temperature can affect older adults who may be dealing with chronic health conditions.

Some of these conditions include the following:

  • Multiple sclerosis: With multiple sclerosis, the immune system attacks healthy nerves and breaks them down. A sudden increase in clumsiness, heat intolerance, and a feeling of pins and needles are the main symptoms.
  • Thyroiditis: When the thyroid is inflamed, thyroiditis is likely to blame. This condition can induce nervousness, sensitivity to cold, and intolerance to high temperatures.
  • Hyperthyroidism: An overactive thyroid that produces too many hormones will have symptoms akin to thyroiditis. Instead of cold intolerance though, a senior may experience weight loss. Heat intolerance is the main symptom as well.
  • Goiter: An enlarged thyroid or goiter can speed up the heart rate, cause a feeling of tightness in the throat, and trigger heat intolerance.
  • Graves’ disease: Graves’ disease brings with it similar symptoms, including an increased heart rate, nervousness, and heat intolerance.
  • High blood pressure: Along with higher temperatures, summer tends to also bring high humidity. When the humidity is more than 70%, the excess moisture in the air can make it difficult for a body to sweat and cool off. This can cause more blood than usual to flow and force the heart to beat faster.

Inability To Adapt To Temperature Shifts

Besides the above factors playing a role in how an elderly body regulates heat, as they get older, seniors are just not as good at handling temperature shifts as they once were.

3. Pay Attention To The Early Warning Signs Of A Heat Illness

Whether the heat illness is heat stress, heat syncope or heat exhaustion, when a senior has had too much sun exposure or just too much time in hot and humid weather, their temperature intolerance kicks in, they could develop a whole host of symptoms.

Here are the early signs of heat related illnesses to watch out for:

  • Shallower and faster breathing than usual
  • Changes to pulse (either rapid pulse or it’s slowed down)
  • Moist and cool skin despite feeling hot
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Exhaustion
  • Muscle cramps
  • Pale skin
  • Excessive sweating
  • Unconsciousness

If you notice one or more of these heat illness symptoms in yourself or a senior loved one, you want to check on them right away and take the proper precautions.

Ask if you can get them something to drink and offer to provide them refuge from the heat. That can include a shady spot or even going indoors if their heat illness is serious enough.

Ignoring heat illness can possibly give way to heatstroke.

Anyone can be affected by heatstroke, but seniors with a heat intolerance are more likely to have symptoms because their bodies cannot regulate the high temperatures.

Signs include excessive sweating, dizziness, nausea, muscle cramps and weakness. Heat exhaustion can quickly turn into heat stroke, a life-threatening condition which requires immediate medical attention. Signs of heat stroke include hot, dry, red skin; lack of sweating; rapid pulse; high body temperature (103 F or higher); headache; rapid and shallow breathing; loss of alertness; confusion or loss of consciousness.

Healthjournalism.org

The senior may suddenly stop sweating, and their skin will feel dry and hot to the touch. Depending on how long they have been outside, their skin could be red too.

4. Look For The Signs Of Dehydration

Is your senior drinking enough water?

Our bodies use our internal supply of water to produce sweat. If a senior is sweating – especially profusely on a hot summer’s day – they need to make sure that they drink more than their usual quantities of water.

If you have a difficult time getting someone to drink enough water I can recommend popsicles (either storebought or homemade) which may be more desirable.

Failing to keep hydrated can lead to dehydration, which will have these three very noticeable symptoms:

  • Dry Mouth

If your senior loved one is smacking their lips and complaining that their mouth is dry, they are more than just thirsty, they’re dehydrated. Note that this symptom may also be accompanied by tongue swelling. In this case, they need to replenish their fluids ASAP.

  • Reduced Urine Output

If it’s been hours since an elderly adult has used the bathroom and still has no need to, this can also be indicative of dehydration. When you aren’t consuming any fluids, you don’t need to pass these fluids out via urination.

If you are dehydrated, once you do urinate, the color of the urine is a lot darker than usual, as well.

  • Smelly Breath

The mouth is full of saliva, especially during eating. Yet without the moisture from fluids, such as when we are experiencing dehydration, a senior will have less saliva in their mouth. This can in turn make their breath smell terrible.

Remember – untreated dehydration can be fatal, so don’t ignore the signs!

5. Drink Lots Of Water And Healthy Fluids

On a typical day, seniors should consume eight glasses of water, each of which should be eight ounces (a total of 64 ounces). This maintains their basic hydration needs.

Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages or caffeinated beverages when you are sweating from the heat. These drinks will only worsen your dehydration.

Of course, as I mentioned above – if getting someone to drink more than perhaps providing popsicles may be a good alternative.

6. Dress In Lightweight Summer Clothing

You make your summer-ready wardrobe by switching out any synthetic fabrics and opting for lightweight natural breathable fabrics instead.

Cotton is your best bet here, as it will allow the skin to breathe. Keep the layers to a minimum. Wear clothing with light colors instead of dark colors.

7. Avoid Overexertion In Hot Temperatures

If your senior parent or loved one is mostly independent, remind them that running errands during the hottest parts of the day is not a safe thing to do.

Overexerting themselves in other ways – be that pacing around their home too quickly or even trying to exercise – can also induce heat illness and even heatstroke.

8. Know When To Move Indoors

Many seniors don’t want to confine themselves inside the house all summer with the air conditioner on. But they should try to stay in shaded areas as much as they can.

Apply sunscreen in regular intervals to prevent sunburn as well..

If you see the signs of dehydration and heat illness begin to manifest, then it’s time to get out of the sun, whether you want to or not.

If you want to get out and about, consider activities that are in cool places such as movie theaters, shopping malls, a senior center, museums, art galleries, etc.

Here is a list of some activities that you can do with elderly adults.

For walking activities I would recommend either early morning or later on in the evening before it gets too dark – when the temperatures are cooler.

9. Ensure The Home Is Adequately Cooled

Having a roof over one’s head does protect from the sun, but if your home isn’t cool enough, a heat illness could progress to heatstroke. A safe home temperature for older adults is between 65 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit all year around.

Central air conditioning is always best, but barring that, window AC units and oscillating fans will keep cool air moving so the senior’s temperature can come back down.

If you are concerned about leaving the AC unit on all day – read here!

Tools To Help Seniors Stay Cool In Summer Heat

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O2COOL Deluxe Handheld Battery Powered Water Misting Fan (Purple) Batteries Included
  • COMFORTABLE COOLING MIST: Beat the heat with a personal cooling system. This portable mini misting fan from O2COOL offers a fine mist of cold water and a powerful fan

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4 Packs Cooling Towel (40″x 12″), Ice Towel, Microfiber, Soft Breathable Chilly Towel Stay Cool for Yoga, Sport, Gym, Workout, Camping, Fitness, Running, Workout & More Activities (Multicolor)
  • Our Cooling towel is made of microfiber hyper-evaporative breathable material,it has a soft feel ,is super absorbent and breathable.This towel is a physical cooling by the evaporation of water molecules.

20 Sheets Cooling Patches for Fever Discomfort & Pain Relief, Cooling Relief Fever Reducer, Soothe Headache Pain, Pack of 20 Blue
  • 【Professinal Design】:The cooling gel patches are made of natural plant hydrogel ingredient, which used for not only baby fever, but for adults to soothe headache, toothache pain, muscle ache, drowsiness, fatigue, sunstroke.

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