The summer heat can have deadly consequences for people of all ages. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), heat related illnesses are responsible for an average of 688 deaths in the U.S. each year. 40% are people over the age of 65. If you are the caregiver for a senior loved one, there are steps you can take to help them stay cool and beat the heat.
8 Ways for Seniors to Beat the Heat this Summer
1. Maintain a cool environment. If your aging parent or senior loved one doesn’t have central air, even having a window air conditioning unit in one room of the house will help. When that isn’t possible, placing fans in and around windows can keep the air circulating. Be sure cords are safely taped down to the floor or tucked away to avoid a fall.
2. Know where they can go to rest and relax away from the heat. It might be at a local senior center, the movie theater or the mall. Many communities also establish cooling centers during the hottest days of the summer. Check with your local Agency on Aging office to find the one closest to your older family member.
3. Unless their doctor has them restricting fluids for health reasons, encourage them to increase hydration during the summer months. Their daily diet should include 8 glasses of water and foods that have a high water content. Suggestions include cucumber, melons, berries, and leafy green vegetables. Our friends at Eating Well offer these Healthy Recipes for Foods That Hydrate to give you ideas for menu planning.
4. Avoiding the outdoors between noon and 4:00 p.m. is also a good way to beat the heat. These are typically the hottest hours of the day. Encourage your senior loved one to work in the yard and take their walk early in the day or later in the evening.
5. Wearing a long-sleeve, loose-fitting shirt and a hat that provides shade for the face can also help the body stay cool because they keep the sun off the skin.
6. Use heat-generating appliances like the washer, dryer, and dishwasher after the sun goes down. Even the television puts off heat.
7. Keep the curtains and shades pulled, especially on the east and west sides of the house. Experts say that 40% of heat comes through your windows. Home improvement stores also carry a heat-control window film you can apply yourself to help reflect the sun’s rays.
8. Take a cool shower. While many of us are conditioned to take hot showers, turning down the temperature and not drying off completely when finished helps cool the body down.
Finally, know the warning signs of heat-related illnesses. Early intervention is key to preventing a senior from experiencing heat stroke.