Safe Summers for Seniors

Safe Summers for Seniors | Click the Photo Above To View Info in a Video! 

Here is the Northwest, these days filled with sunshine are a real gift. However, it is so important that we take safety precautions in the extreme heat, especially for seniors. As we age our risk of dehydration or heat stroke rises. If you are caring for an aging loved one, here are a few tips to stay safe and prepared this summer.

Stay Hydrated 

Staying hydrated is crucial for overall health. As we age, the body loses muscle mass and retained water. Until about 40, the proportion of total body fluids to body weight is about 60%. After age 60, the proportion goes down to 52% in men and 46% in women. Dehydration can happen for many reasons other than not drinking enough water, including side effects of prescription medications, and reduced kidney function. Especially if you are out and about with an aging loved one, it is crucial that you know the signs and symptoms of dehydration.    

Mild Dehydration:

  • Dry mouth
  • Cramping muscles
  • Headache
  • Weakness and Fatigue
  • Dark Yellow Urine

Severe Dehydration:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Bloated Stomach
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dry and sunken eyes
  • Severe cramping in muscles

Make sure that your loved one is getting at least 8 glasses of non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated liquid a day. Gradually increase the amount of water they have each day through liquid-rich foods such as watermelon or salsa.

Dressing for Summer 

Dressing appropriately for the hot weather is really important for protecting the skin and regulating body temperature. Especially if your loved one has dementia, be sure that they are dressed appropriately for the season before heading out to enjoy the outdoors. Wearing lightweight breathable clothes in light colors will help them stay cool. Bring layers as the temperature can vary dramatically from the indoors to the outdoors or even from the sun to the shade.

Protect Your Skin 

Just like young skin, aging skin is very sensitive to the sun. When going outside be sure that you protect skin with sunscreen. Bring a hat and sunglasses and a thin long-sleeve shirt to protect sensitive areas such as chest, back and arms. Some medications can make you more prone to sunburn, so consult with your doctor about sun exposure.

Take breaks throughout the day out of the sun and be sure to take any appropriate mobility equipment, walking shoes, extra medications, and plenty of water. Also, have a fully charged cell phone with you in case of emergency. 

Emergency Numbers 

While we tend to think of heat risks occurring outside in the sun, many times the risks can be inside the home. It is crucial that the elderly have a way to properly cool their homes during these hot days of summer. Consider posting an appropriate phone number of a repair vendor and family member to call in case an air conditioner stops working. If an air conditioner breaks down, prepare to relocate your aging loved one to a cooler setting during repairs such as another home, a movie theater, mall, restaurant or coffee shop. Temperatures inside the home should not exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat Exhaustion & Stroke 

Taking steps to prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke is always a first line of defense, but knowing the signs and symptoms to watch for can assist you getting a loved one timely help in an emergency.

Symptoms of heat stroke: Raised body temperature is indicated in a flushed face and the client may exhibit symptoms of headache, nausea, rapid pulse, dizziness, muscle cramps. Loved ones may be suffering from heat exhaustion if they have muscle cramps, extreme fatigue, profuse sweating, and a weak pulse.

If your loved one is exhibiting these symptoms, get them to a cool place where they can rest and rehydrate. Prepare a cool bath or shower to lower their body temperature slowly. If your aging loved one is losing consciousness or is exhibiting extreme symptoms, call emergency services.

As a local company, we are biased that the Puget Sound is one of the most beautiful places to live with paradise right in our backyard. We hope that you are able to get out and enjoy the fresh air and scenery at every age to rejuvenate body and spirit.  

Published on July 3, 2013.