August 1st, 2020
This summer has already seen its share of days reaching temperatures of at least 90°F and with August upon us more days of extreme heat are likely. While exposure to higher summer temperatures can be dangerous for anyone, seniors are especially at risk to the effects of the heat. In fact, many times seniors don’t realize they are overheated.
WHY SENIORS OFTEN CAN’T HANDLE HEAT AS WELL AS YOUNGER PEOPLE
Often, seniors have poorer circulation than younger people and increased age also means individuals don’t sweat as effectively as they when they were younger. Other factors, such as health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, etc. as well as medications can compound the risk of heat for seniors.
One of the best ways to help avoid the heat is to stay inside an air-conditioned home or in buildings that are air conditioned. However, poor circulation can result in seniors feeling a chill and either reaching for a sweater or even turning on the heat despite the high temperatures outside. If it is too cool in the house you can turn up the thermostat a bit, but seniors should stay away from the direct flow of the vents. Closing the blinds or curtains on the east side of the house in the morning and the west side in the afternoon can also help keep the home cooler
Dressing lightly can also help seniors stay cool. This means clothing that is lightweight, light in color and does not fit too tightly.
Dehydration is a significant risk for seniors because they may not feel thirsty. Natural thirst mechanisms become less effective with age leading many seniors to constantly dehydrated all the time, including during the heat of summer. Water is the ideal choice and seniors should be regularly drinking water in greater amounts than beverages such as coffee or soda.
Another way to help keep seniors hydrated is to have foods available that have a higher water content, such as watermelon, strawberries, celery, cucumbers and even sugar free popsicles.
STAY IN THE SHADE
If seniors do go outside it is important that they stay in the shade and avoid direct sun exposure. When in the sun, it is a good idea to wear a broad brim, loosely woven or well-ventilated hat and sunglasses as well as using sunscreen with a high SPF (50 or higher) to protect against harmful UV rays.
WARNING SIGNS OF POSSIBLE DEHYDRATION OR HEAT EXHAUSTION
There are a number of warning signs that may indicate the possibility of dehydration or heat exhaustion, including:
If you or your senior loved one experiences these symptoms quickly move into an air-conditioned environment, drink water, and remove extra layers of clothing. Seek medical attention if you feel these symptoms coming on. In the event of a collapse or loss of consciousness, call 911 immediately.