For most people, summer is a time for playing in the sun, fun and relaxation. However, for seniors, the sun and the heat can be dangerous, especially if the appropriate precautions aren’t taken. Seniors are especially at risk in high heat situations and since a major portion of the United States is experiencing high temperatures, it is important for seniors to be aware of their health and for caregivers to routinely check on the elderly. Here are a few tips that seniors as well as their caregivers can use to ensure they have a fun, safe and healthy summer.
Unfortunately, seniors are highly susceptible to dehydration, which goes hand-in-hand with heatstroke. Seniors can often become less aware of their thirst, they have difficulty conserving water and they struggle adjusting to temperature changes. It is extremely important to remember to drink water often and remember to pack some water when going for a drive or for plans that involve spending time outdoors. Sweating causes loss of electrolyte-packed body fluids, so without replenishing fluids, dehydration occurs, which prevents the ability to sweat enough to cool the body down. Their temperature rises and heatstroke soon follows. Know the warning signs of heatstroke and if symptoms occur, go to the emergency room so intravenous fluids can be given.
Even if the temperatures only slightly increase, it may shorten the life-span of seniors that are coping with a chronic medical condition. If their home isn’t air-conditioned, find places to spend time that are, such as the library, movie theater or shopping mall. Getting out of the house and spending time doing an activity in the air conditioning will not only help to maintain body temperature, but it’s a great way to get exercise and socialize.
Meet the Neighbors
Getting to know the neighbors is a great resource for seniors, especially if they don’t have regularly scheduled visits from home health care providers and their family lives far away. If you are a senior, ask a neighbor or perhaps one of their kids to come by occasionally to check on you. If you know a senior who isn’t able to get out, consider talking with the neighbors on their behalf. Not on is this a great way to ensure seniors are alright during the summer, but they will love the friendship and the company.
Sunscreen is a necessity, regardless of age, but seniors especially need the extra protection to help keep them healthy. It’s also a good idea to wear a hat to protect your head and face from sunburn. Don’t forget the bug spray! Seniors are especially prone to encephalitis and West Nile virus, so always apply bug spray before going outdoors, especially if you live in an area where there are a lot of mosquitoes.
One of the most important things to do to ensure seniors have a save and healthy summer is visit their doctor. Before the temperatures begin to rise, it is important to talk with your doctor to make sure you aren’t taking medications that may be affected by higher temperatures, especially if your home isn’t air conditioned. Some medications become less effective if they are store in high temperatures and some medications may cause your body to react differently to the sun. Your doctor can also provide information on summer related illnesses and health risks, such a heatstroke and sunburn, including the symptoms and what to do should an emergency occur.