It’s wonderful to see the sun more often, but temperatures are heating up as the summer progresses. As a result, you may be concerned about your loved one’s safety on the hottest days. Extreme heat and humidity can cause heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Aside from babies, seniors are the people most vulnerable to heat-related illnesses. As a caregiver, there are a few facts to be mindful of during the summer.
According to the New York Presbyterian Hospital, seniors may be less sensitive to heat and cooling, so it’s important for caregivers to monitor when loved ones need a temperature adjustment. This is particularly important for older people in dementia care who may not be as self-aware and tuned in to the heat level. Layered clothing can make it easier for older people to transition between air-conditioned rooms to the high temperatures outside.
It’s important for everyone to stay hydrated in the summer, but seniors may be more vulnerable to heat exhaustion. Some common symptoms of heat-related illness are nausea, headaches and weakness. Water and sports drinks are the best beverage choices for staying hydrated. Drinks that contain caffeine can cause dehydration, so it’s a good idea to avoid them on hot days.
For seniors who live in a home without air-conditioning, there are a few places to go when it’s time to escape the heat. Consider bringing your loved one to the movies, a coffee shop or a local mall for a bit of air-conditioned relief.
As people age, their skin texture changes in a way that promotes sunburn. NYPH said sunburn makes it more difficult for seniors’ bodies to keep cool. To protect seniors from sunburn, it’s best to avoid outdoor activities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun is at its hottest. While you are enjoying the company of your loved one outside, don’t forget a sunscreen with a high SPF or a brand that contains zinc oxide. For more sun protection, your loved one can wear long sleeves and a wide-brimmed hat to shade his or her face and neck.
Certain health conditions can increase the risk of heat-related illness for older people. These include high blood pressure, obesity, memory disorders, diabetes and psychiatric illnesses. Check with your loved one’s doctors that prescription medications won’t make him or her more susceptible to sunburn or overheating.