With the temperatures hovering in the 80’s and 90’s for days on end, it’s no wonder that you are concerned about your mother’s safety. Seniors are at risk for heat-related illnesses such as dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat syncope (fainting), and heat stroke.
Why is it such a big concern? The elderly are disproportionately affected by the heat because their bodies cannot tolerate nor adjust to temperature extremes as well as they did when they were younger. Even certain medications and conditions can also increase the danger.
So how can you help seniors beat the heat? These tips are simple and effective ways to keep your loved one healthy and safe during a heat wave.
Keep Your Cool
Some of the easiest things you can do to prevent heat exhaustion or dehydration during summer come down to common sense, and most don’t cost a thing. Here’s a short list to prepare you for these dog days:
- Stay inside during the hottest hours of the day. If your loved one wants to go outside, try to limit it to early morning or in the evening when the sun is less intense.
- Have your senior dress in light colors, breathable fabrics, and loose-fitting clothing when possible. If your mother prefers a sweater, make it a lightweight one with an open-knit design, encourage her to switch to a short-sleeve sweater, or wear sleeveless tank underneath.
- Hats were once all the fashion, so your senior may not mind donning a wide-brimmed hat outside to protect delicate skin and provide shade.
- Turn on the air conditioning! Do not let a frugal senior determine the temperature setting indoors, or at the very least, provide fans and open windows to improve air circulation inside.
- Keep curtains or blinds closed during the heat of the day to prevent the air from heating up insides so that seniors beat the heat.
- Switch to lighter meals, such as salads or sandwiches, which do not require the use of an oven. Baking can warm up the interior of a home more than you realize.
- Slather on sunscreen and bug repellent when your senior does go outside. Certain medications can make your loved one’s skin more sensitive to sun exposure, and bug bites and stings may bring an increased chance of irritation and infection.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Some elderly people are not the biggest fans of plain water, so be prepared to offer popsicles, ices, or flavored beverages in moderation to encourage enough liquid intake.
- Keep your senior active during the warmer months with swimming or low-impact water exercise classes. Water-based exercise is also easier on joints than other kinds of weight-bearing movement.
- When your loved one bathes, you can reduce the temperature of the shower or bath to a comfortable lukewarm range. You can also cool off your senior with a damp washcloth on the wrists or back of the neck.
- If you take your senior out with you, do not leave him or her alone in a parked car! Heat can build up quickly inside a vehicle, and it’s just not a risk worth taking.
- Set up a daily check-in with your loved one if you are unable to do it yourself. Have a friend or relative call every day, or rotate the duty, especially if your senior is aging in place or does not have a daily caregiver.
Sound the Alarm
What if, despite your best intentions, the heat gets to your loved one? You should know what signs to look for if you are concerned about dehydration or other heat-related illnesses. If your loved one complains of feeling weak, dizzy, or nauseated, if he or she has headaches, confusion, or muscle cramps, you should first get them out of the sun and cool them off. Seek medical attention if any of these symptoms seem severe or do not improve after trying of these suggestions for cooling off.
Hopefully, you may be able to help your seniors beat the heat until we get a break in this warm weather.