With the record summer temperatures, it’s extremely important to know how to care for your aging loved ones to keep them comfortable in the heat. Seniors are extremely susceptible to heat-related illnesses such as heatstroke and dehydration, so we’ve compiled an all-you-need-to-know list of tips to keep these hazards away.
The obvious: 4 tips to protect yourself
The best ways to care for seniors during a heatwave are the same practices that you would do when protecting yourself. Here are some of the easiest strategies that you can incorporate into your elder care routine if you aren’t doing so already:
1. Avoid the heat: It’s as straightforward as it sounds. If there are certain times of the day that are forecast to be harmful, stay indoors and in the shade until the worst has passed.
2. Stay hydrated with the right fluids: Make sure to always have a hydrating drink on hand during a heatwave. Make sure to avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages, as these types of drinks will DEhydrate you more than they will hydrate you.
3. Cool showers over hot ones: If you plan on taking a bath or a shower throughout the day, opt for a colder temperature to cool your body down from the heat.
4. Dress appropriately: Lighter materials are always the way to go in the summer. Wear light, breathable material like cotton or linen to make sure you’re not accidentally insulating yourself any further than you need to be.
The not-so-obvious: 5 tips for staying safe at home
Aside from the practices that you may already know, some of the best ways to care for our older loved ones in the summer are actually not as intuitive as you’d originally think. Here are five of the more specific stay-safe-at-home tips compiled by healthcare professionals:
1. Avoid electric fans when it’s over 90 degrees
As unusual as this may sound, electric fans are actually detrimental to your health when the temperature is too hot. The CDC recommends that any temperature over 90 degrees calls for the air conditioner or a cool bath.
2. Limit appliance use
Be wary of how much you use the oven or stove during high temperatures, as they’ll also contribute to heating up the house.
3. Keep the outside out
It’s best to shut all windows and doors and to block any incoming sunlight with shades or blinders. Incoming sunlight can significantly increase the temperature of a room or house.
4. Know your cooling stations
If you have to be out during a heatwave, be aware of the nearest air-conditioned places where you can find some refuge.
5. Stay on top of the AC
The worst possible scenario in a heatwave is to find out your air conditioning doesn’t work once the temperatures have already risen. Preemptively test the air conditioning and if there are any issues, get a professional to fix it BEFORE the heat has actually hit.
Why are seniors more susceptible?
All of our aforementioned tips should do plenty to help you keep your aging loved ones safe throughout the summer, however, it’s still best to know why seniors are at a higher risk in the first place. As mentioned earlier, the elderly are particularly susceptible to heatstroke and dehydration for a number of reasons.
Firstly, as our bodies age, we become unaware of the changes in our body temperature and we develop a reduced sense of thirst and ability to conserve water. This means our older loved ones could be silently overheating, without actually experiencing any side effects.
To make matters worse, many medications that are commonly prescribed to seniors actually amplify these issues. As Dr. Matt Kolinski, a former SYNERGY HomeCare franchise owner, points out, “medications for high blood pressure like beta-blockers and diuretics can make people dehydrated,” even without necessarily being in very high temperatures. Even certain allergy or anxiety medications can further reduce our ability to notice changes in our body temperatures.
It’s critical to monitor the well-being of our older loved ones and to keep an eye on what they’re putting into their body. By being mindful and employing some of our heat-safety tips, we can ensure that seniors enjoy the summer just as much as we do!