As the summer months continue to heat up, staying healthy in increasingly high temperatures is an issue facing many elderly people and the loved ones who care for them. Studies show that people over the age of 65 are at the highest risk to succumb to heat-related fatalities. Seniors especially need to take special precautions in order to ensure that they do not experience uncomfortable or even fatal health complications from the harmful effects of dehydration and heat illness.
It is critical that our loved ones, whether they are children, parents or grandparents, take the following five steps to help seniors effectively deal with the hot weather.
1. Drink liquids often - Fluid intake is key. Staying hydrated is essential to keeping the body balanced and healthy throughout the day. Not only does it help to keep the body energized, but drinking water -- even if you're not thirsty -- can help prevent adverse symptoms such as heat stroke.
One of my favorite liquids for staying hydrated is coconut water. It's a natural electrolyte and will help to keep you hydrated in the hot weather. For added fun, try this recipe:
Hydrating Coconut Water Freezes:
- Popsicle mold
- Coconut Water
- Diced mango
- Dices strawberries
Fill popsicle molds half-way up with coconut water and then add diced fruit. Freeze for at least 4-5 hours, take out of mold and enjoy! Try other fruit combinations (berries and pineapple freeze well).
For other unique recipes, visit http://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/2013-7-18-elderly-dehydration/.
2. Remember the sunscreen - Applying sunscreen to protect your skin is important, even when temperatures are not extreme. Harmful rays from the sun increase the risk of skin cancer and contribute to potential burns. Additionally, some medications make the skin more sensitive to sunlight, so understand the side effects of your loved one's medications.
3. Stay indoors during the hottest part of the day - Keep in mind that before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m. tend to be the cooler parts of the day. Seniors should limit the amount of time spent outdoors between these periods of time as much as possible. Staying indoors during the majority of the afternoon, preferably in an air conditioned environment or near a fan, will greatly help to keep the body cool.
4. Take it easy - The ability to notice changes in body temperature typically decreases with age, and many seniors have underlying health conditions that make them less able to adapt to heat. It's critical for seniors to remember not to overexert themselves, especially in high temperatures. Their bodies can overheat, leading to a number of heat-related illnesses.
5. Know the warning signs of heat-related illness - Lastly, it's important to be aware of the symptoms that can arise from a heat-related illness. If you notice or your hear your elderly loved one describe feelings of dizziness, nausea, headaches, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, fainting and/or breathing problems, you should seek medical help immediately.
There is no doubt that the high temperatures and uncomfortable heat affects us all, and watching for signs of illness in a loved one can be challenging. Some illnesses show up clearly, while others have a more subtle effect on daily living. Taking preventative measures to avoid illness from the heat is important in order to maintain a healthy physical state and also to fully enjoy the summer season.
In times of long stretches of high heat, you may consider having your loved one enjoy a short stay at a local senior living community. According to A Place for Mom, many communities offer short-term respite stays ranging in length from one night up to a month. Having access to air conditioning, nutritious meals, personal care and social events may be a welcome, needed change -- not to mention a great distraction -- from the heat.
The A Place for Mom blog (www.aplaceformom.com/blog) is a good resource for additional information on staying cool in the heat and other tips for seniors and caregivers.