Heat safety tips for seniors

BHC heat safety tips for seniors.jpgEven if you think your senior loved one is safe from the heat indoors, hot weather can still mean increased health risks for seniors.

Natural aging processes, chronic disease and prescription medications can all contribute to the risk of heat-related illness or even heat stroke.

Over the last decade, about 40% of heat-related fatalities in the U.S. were among people over 65.

Why are seniors at risk for heat-related health emergencies?

  • Dehydration
  • Chronic health conditions
  • Heart or blood vessel problems that make it difficult for the body to regulate temperature
  • Poorly functioning sweat glands and other changes in the skin caused by normal aging
  • Prescriptions such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and some heart and high blood pressure medicines can make it harder for the body to regulate temperature. (However, seniors should continue to take prescribed medication. Talk to their health provider about the best ways to cope with hot weather.)
  • Being overweight or underweight
  • Drinking alcoholic beverages
  • Being on a salt-restricted diet
  • Age-related changes to the skin such as poor blood circulation and inefficient sweat glands.

Seniors are at risk of dehydration

As we age, our perception of thirst changes, and often we don’t feel the urge to drink as much as we should. During the summer months, seniors are at higher risk for complications and hospitalizations related to dehydration. It's important to keep an eye on your senior loved one’s diet to make sure they are getting adequate fluids to stay healthy in the summer heat.

Check in on your senior loved one

The Centers for Disease Control recommends frequent checks on senior loved ones. They may not accept their limitations and can quickly become overheated with too much activity.

Ask the following questions:

  • Are they drinking enough water?
  • Do they have access to air conditioning?
  • Do they know how to keep cool?
  • Do they show any signs of heat stress?

Stay cool, stay hydrated

There are some simple and inexpensive ways to keep your loved one and their home cooler during the summer.

  • Find air-conditioned spaces such as libraries and senior centers for the hottest days of the year. Or, your local health department can help you locate an air-conditioned shelter in your area.
  • Fans are a good boost for cooling, but they work by evaporating sweat from the skin, which may not work for some seniors. A fan is no substitute for air conditioning.
  • Encourage your senior loved one to drink on a schedule. By the time a person is thirsty, they are already close to dehydration.
  • If your loved one is on a restricted-fluid diet or takes water pills, talk to their doctor about how much they should consume during the summer months to stay adequately hydrated.
  • Limit beverages with alcohol or caffeine.
  • Make sure your loved one has appropriate summer clothing - loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing in natural fibers help the body stay cooler.
  • Cool showers, baths or sponge baths can help keep seniors cool.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Avoid strenuous activities, indoors and out.
  • Keep shades, blinds, or curtains closed in the afternoons to keep the home cooler.

Signs of a heat stroke

Seek medical care immediately if you recognize the signs of heat stroke or heat-related illness:

  • High body temperature (103°F or higher)
  • Hot, red, dry, or damp skin
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Losing consciousness (passing out)

What to do

  • Call 911 right away and tell them it is a heat stroke.
  • Move the person to a cooler place.
  • Help lower the person’s temperature with cool compresses or a cool bath.
  • DO NOT give the person anything to drink.

Belvedere Home Care can help you monitor your senior loved ones to make sure they are staying hydrated and following a heat-wise routine. Contact us for more information: (518) 694-9400 Option 4 or info@belvedereservices.com.