Hot weather opens up opportunities for plenty of activities including swimming, cookouts, visits to the beach and walks in the park. There is no doubting the months of summer are fun. However, they are also sometimes dangerous. Rising temperatures pose risks including dehydration, heat stroke and an increase in side effects associated with various health conditions. This is especially true for seniors because of age-related physical changes in the body, prescribed medications and diagnosed medical conditions.
Risks Increase as Temperatures Climb
Even a small change in temperatures often poses health risks for the elderly. Those risks increase significantly once temperatures spike above 90-degrees. This is frequently the case in Los Angeles in the months of July, August and sometimes September. During these months, there are a few things to keep in mind that keep seniors safer.
Limit Time in the Sun During Peak Hours
When temperatures are high, the most dangerous place to spend time is in the sun. Whenever possible, staying inside is the best option. This is especially true between the hours of about 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM when the sun is often strongest. Try to plan outdoor exercise, walks and even appointments or errands away from home in the morning hours or late afternoon. When that is not possible, limit time outdoors to stay safer.
Clothing and Sunscreen Choices
If the senior prefers to spend some time in the sun, consider the clothing choice and sunscreen. Wear loose fitting, cotton clothing for extra protection from the sun’s damaging rays. The right clothes will also prevent the body from overheating, another big safety concern. Wide brim hats and sunglasses are also a good idea to keep the delicate skin on the face and neck safer. On any body parts that are exposed, use a good sunscreen that offers protection of SPF 30 or above. Ingredients like zinc oxide and avobenzone are excellent to look for.
While indoors, remember that the air conditioner is your friend. Many seniors are afraid to run their air conditioning unit because of high utility costs that are difficult to pay when living on a fixed income. Even a moderate thermostat setting of 78-degrees helps to keep the home more comfortable and a senior safe from overheating. Modern digital thermostats make it easier to remember to run the thermostat at a comfortable setting. They also save money by raising the temperatures when the home is empty or in the cooler early morning and evening hours.
Just as air conditioning keeps you cooler so does staying hydrated. Especially in the hottest months of summer, it is important for seniors to drink enough fluids. Water is the best choice, but anything that does not contain alcohol or caffeine is also sufficient. Many seniors resist this one especially those with a weak bladder or anyone struggling with incontinence. To make staying hydrated more enticing, try putting a pitcher of water in an easily accessible space so the senior can help himself. Offer beverages at different temperatures, add fruit to the glass or even serve juice as popsicles or smoothies to make a favorite beverage seem like a treat.
Just Stay Comfortable
Even when taking these precautions, rising temperatures and the sun’s beating rays often make life a little uncomfortable. For the sake of both comfort and health, cool off whenever the inclination strikes. This is easily accomplished with a tepid shower, cool bath, dip in the swimming pool. Fragile seniors might also appreciate a sponge bath delivered by a family member or professional in home caregiver. If none of those things are possible at the moment, even a damp washcloth across the neck or forehead helps.
Warning Signs to Watch For
Just as it is important to take steps to stay safe in the sun, it is essential to recognize when the heat and sun are taking a dangerous toll on the body. A senior with concerns including dizziness, weakness, muscle cramps, confusion, vomiting or fainting needs to get out of the heat immediately. In most cases, it is also a good idea to call 911. Seek prompt medical attention especially if a senior suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure or other chronic health conditions. Fast action helps the elderly individual to avoid the most serious side effects associated with heat stroke or dehydration.
In the summer it is always important to keep seniors safe as temperatures rise. Limit time outdoors, take advantage of air conditioned spaces, wear sunscreen and dress appropriately. Taking these simple steps reduces health risks and keeps seniors more comfortable.
Salus Homecare Los Angeles is proud to provide seniors and their family members with helpful tips like these that make everyday living easier and safer and support aging in place. If you have questions or need professional in home care assistance, give us a call. We are happy to help in any way we can.
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