Hot summer temperatures often inspire thoughts of leisure, vacation and family time. And while many people can safely enjoy the summer heat by taking simple precautions like using sunscreen, wearing a hat and staying hydrated, older adults and seniors are at increased risk for heat-related illnesses.
Some factors that may increase the risk of heat-related illness include age-related skin changes such as poor circulation and inefficient sweat glands, high blood pressure, taking certain medications, weight changes and heart, lung and kidney diseases, among others.
Lifestyle factors such as hot living quarters, transportation limitations, overdressing and not planning for the heat can also increase the risk of heat-related illness. Often older adults and seniors can make adjustments to minimize risk of developing heat-related illness, but at times additional assistance may be required. Private duty nursing and home health services can offer enhanced support at home and can monitor for risks contributing to heat-related illnesses.
Lower the Risk of Heat-Related Illness
Some things you can do to lower the risk of heat-related illness include:
· Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and clear liquids and stay away from alcohol and caffeine.
· Avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible. Try planning outside activities in the early morning or evening when the sun is less intense.
· Use air conditioning if available. Rather than turning the air conditioning unit on and off at different points in the day, set it to a reasonably cool setting and let the house maintain that temperature. This will not only keep you cool but will also be more energy efficient.
· Keep the house cool. If you don’t have air conditioning, use other methods of cooling such as fans, limiting oven use and keeping shades closed during the day. If you live in an area that cools off at night, open the windows before bed to let the cool air in and remember to close them again in the morning before it heats up to trap some of the cool air inside.
· Don’t wait outside for transportation. If you need help getting around during the summer months, ask a friend or relative for assistance or research other ride options. Many senior centers have transportation assistance available if you ask. Try to avoid walking or waiting for the bus in the hot sun.
· Dress appropriately for the weather. Clothing made of natural fabrics such as cotton tend to be cooler than synthetic fibers and can help keep you cool in summer months.
· Cool down with damp cloths or take showers, baths or sponge baths. When you’re feeling warm, put wet washcloths or towels on your neck, armpits, ankles and wrists or take tepid showers or baths to cool the body quickly.
Ask for Help When Needed
While many hot weather tips may seem simple and obvious, as we age, our bodies do not respond to heat in the same way they do when we’re younger. Older adults and seniors may not realize how hot they are until they are experiencing distress. If you or a loved one are struggling to monitor risk factors related to heat, enlisting professional help can ease the burden. A private duty nurse or home health aide who is on site by appointment, daily, or even 24-hours a day can keep track of risk factors and ensure safety at home during the summer months.
If you or someone you love needs help with at-home care services, contact Charter Healthcare.