Summer Safety for Seniors

Summer has finally arrived here in New England. With summer comes days of high temperatures which can be dangerous to seniors and others who are affected by the heat. So as you enjoy the long lazy days of summer, remember to take precautionary measures to protect those you love from heat related illness. The following is an article from the Red Cross website with tips on helping seniors to beat the heat.

"Summer Safety & Preparedness Guide for Seniors

As our bodies age, skin and fat tissue, the body's insulators, tend to thin. Because of that change, seniors regulate temperature less efficiently, putting them at greater risk than others from heat-related health problems. Signs of dehydration or heat exhaustion are less pronounced in seniors, who:

  • Tend to perspire less than younger people—so their bodies don"t shed heat as easily as they once did.
  • May lose some of their sense of thirst and not feel thirsty until severe dehydration has set in.
  • May take high blood pressure and heart disease medications that remove salt and fluids from the body. These medications, coupled with heat, can cause a senior to become dehydrated—leading to confusion, organ damage and even death.

The following tips can help seniors beat the heat.

  • Slow down.  Strenuous activity in extremely hot weather adds strain to the heart. If you must be active, choose the coolest part of the day—usually between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.
  • Take regular breaks when engaging in physical activity on warm days. If you think that you, or someone else, show signs of heat-related illness, stop your activity, find a cool place, drink fluids and apply cool compresses.
  • Stay cool.  If you don’t have air conditioning, spend time at an air-conditioned shopping center, senior center, library, movie theater, restaurant or place of worship.  
  • Plan outdoor activities in the cooler early morning or evening hours
    • Stay in the shade. A covered porch or under a tree are good choices.
    • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and umbrella to protected yourself from sun overexposure
    • Use U/V skin protection
  • Stay cool in your home. If you must be at home without air conditioning:
    • Stay in the coolest part of the house—usually the lowest floor.
    • Close curtains or shades on sunny windows to keep out heat and light. 
    • Use portable and ceiling fans, and/or battery-operated hand-held fans and misters.
    • Install outdoor awnings or sun screens.
    • Use wet washcloths or ice cubes wrapped in a washcloth to pat your wrists, face and back of the neck.   
    • Take cool baths or showers. 
  • Stay hydrated. Carry water or juice with you and drink continuously even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which dehydrate the body.
  • Eat small meals and eat more often. Avoid foods that are high in protein, which increase metabolic heat. Sandwiches, salads, fresh fruit and vegetables are good choices.
  • Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.
  • Dress for the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the sun's energy. Wear a hat or use an umbrella as well.
  • Discuss with your doctor how medications and/or chronic conditions may affect your body's ability to manage heat.
  • Take the heat seriously. Rapid heartbeat, dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, headache, chest pain, fatigue, clammy skin, mental changes or breathing problems are warning signs that you should seek immediate medical attention.

Frail seniors who live alone should be looked in on often during hot weather by family members, neighbors or friends."

Source: nyredcross.org