Beating the Heat: Keeping Seniors Cool for the Summer

Posted by Kia Crawford on June 25th, 2012 in Body, Education | No Comments

It is the first week of summer and who doesn’t enjoy the summer? Beautiful weather, vacation, relaxation, long days, moderate warm nights, pools, and nice tall glasses of  lemonade on sunny Sundays as you rock the day away on the porch. What is not to love? We certainly enjoy our summers here at Dogwood Forest of Assisted Living in Alpharetta. However, the summer months can bring about  great concerns for seniors. The heat from the summer sun can be extremely dangerous for elder adults.  This can be even more of a challenge for seniors in urban cities because unlike suburban areas, the temperature often remains as high as day temperatures throughout the night. If we consider that some seniors do not have central air units this could be disastrous. In cities like Atlanta, the temperature can sore above 90 degrees or higher as we have seen in the last few days.

It is extremely important to monitor the heat for yourself or you loved ones during the summer months. Heat affects seniors differently due to a number of reasons:

  1. Elder adults are more prone to dehydration
  2. They respond to heat differently than younger people
  3. They could be on medication that can change the body’s response to heat
  4. Some medications can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature and perspire

Know the Warning Signs

It is important to know the signs of heat stress. When encountering any of the signs below, first call 911. Until help arrives, the most important thing is to address dehydration. It is important to get fluids (water) into the body. Secondly, cool the heat victims body down by placing wet towels and ice on head neck and body. If possible, try to get the person in a cool bath.

Signs of Heat Stress:

  • Dehydration
  • Sweating heavily
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Light headed or headaches
  • Muscle cramps
  • Clammy or cool skin
  • Paleness
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Interruption of normal breathing pattern

Keeping our senior safe during the summer months requires effort, but will save your loved ones life. See the top 6 things we can do to keep seniors safe this summer:

  1. Check on seniors that are at a greater risk of heat stress at least twice a day
  2. Encourage them to drink plenty of fluids preferably water. Minimize alcohol, caffeinated beverages and warm drinks. For seniors on special medications that require limiting fluid intake, please seek guidance from a physician.
  3. Ensure seniors are dressed in loose, light cloths as opposed to dark clothes as dark clothes attracts heat.
  4.  Ensure the cooling unit is working in their homes. If there is no cooling unit, have several fans throughout the house to circulate air. However, it would be best to take to take them to air conditioned areas.
  5. Advise seniors of the dangers of going outside. It is especially dangerous to walk anywhere. Advise them to drive, ask for a ride or call a taxi even for short distances.
  6. If an elderly adult does not have air conditioning units in the home, they should also take cool baths throughout the day to keep their body temperature down.