Seniors & Heat
Most people see heat as a nuisance. But significant and prolonged summer heat is potentially deadly, especially to seniors. Nearly 400 deaths each year are attributed to heat waves in America. And most of those are seniors. This is a staggering thought. But it’s particularly disconcerting for seniors and those who care for them.
Why is heat such an issue for seniors? First, as we age, we don’t sweat as effectively. This makes our bodies more susceptible to heat stroke and other heat-related ailments.
In addition, elderly adults tend to have poorer circulation. The circulation of blood throughout the body is another important cooling method built into our physiology.
Conditions like obesity, heart disease, dementia, diabetes, and other chronic diseases are also more common among seniors. All these increase the risk individually. But in combination with other factors, they can make many seniors much more susceptible to heat-related illnesses than they realize.
Finally, many medications used to treat these conditions compound seniors’ risks. Diuretics and certain medications prescribed for Parkinson’s and hypertension can cause fluid loss. Dehydration is increasingly common among seniors due to these and other factors.
Air Conditioning Tips
The most obvious advice to help seniors beat the heat is to make sure they stay in air-conditioned spaces as much as possible. But this may not be as easy as it sounds. Many seniors feel cold easily due to poor circulation and sedentary lifestyles. So caregivers may need to compromise a little on their own comfort and pay particular attention to helping seniors maintain a safe body temperature.
Here are some tips to deal with seniors and air conditioning:
- To keep the house cooler without using as much air conditioning, try closing curtains or blinds where direct sunlight comes in. During the morning, close curtains on the east side, and on the west side in the evening.
- If a senior won’t stay inside, have them sit on a shady porch under a ceiling fan or near a box fan.
- Some seniors refuse to use air conditioning. If so, make sure you have them spend the hottest part of the day in a mall or other air conditioned space. Even just a few hours can help regulate their body temperature and keep them from going into distress.
- Help seniors dress appropriately for the warm weather. As we age, our habits become more ingrained, and a senior may just put that sweater on because it’s there. Make sure clothing is light and loose-fitting, and that hats are lightweight and breathable.
Hydration is another important thing to watch for. And this can have its own set of challenges. Many seniors eat and drink very little by habit. And if they prefer sugary or caffeinated drinks to water, they can get in trouble easily.
Here are some senior hydration helps:
- Offer lots of drinks, but stay away from caffeine, sodium, and alcohol. All these are dehydrating to the body. In addition, too much sodium exacerbates hypertension and heart disease.
- Any food with high water content like watermelon is a great way to help with hydration. In addition, you can make sugar-free popsicles at home with fruit juice.
Signs of Trouble
Finally, if your loved one passes out, you need to consider this a medical emergency and dial 911 immediately. But you always need to watch for signs of trouble. If a senior exhibits any of these signs of dehydration or heat stroke, call your doctor and get help.
Signs of Heat Stroke
- High body temperature. A core body temperature of 104 degrees F (40 C) or higher, obtained with a rectal thermometer, is the main sign of heatstroke.
- Altered mental state or behavior
- Alteration in sweating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Flushed skin
- Rapid breathing
- Racing heart rate
Signs of Dehydration
- Increased thirst
- Dry mouth
- Tired or sleepy
- Decreased urine output
- Urine is low volume and more yellowish than normal
- Dry skin
Hospice and Palliative Care
At Seasons Hospice in Springfield, Missouri, we care about you and your well-being. Our goal is to help you make your end-of-life transition as full and comfortable as possible. If you or a loved one are in need of hospice or palliative care, please call (417) 890-5533 and speak with one of our experienced and caring staff today. We are here for you and your family to answer all your questions and help you find the care you need.
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