In the height of summer, we expect the days to be hot. A weather alert has been issued for our community for later this week and weekend – are you prepared to beat the heat?
Heat waves can pose a serious danger to people of any age, and at-risk populations such as seniors need to take the threat seriously. Through readiness and caution, seniors and their caregivers can equip themselves to weather even the hottest days safely and in good health.
When temperatures climb into the high 80s or 90s – and even into the 100s, a bit of knowledge and advanced planning could prevent heat-related illness.
Read on for ways you can help yourself and others.
Check in on your senior loved one or elderly neighbor
The Centers for Disease Control recommend frequent checks on vulnerable seniors. They may not recognize their limitations and can quickly become overheated with too much activity.
Ask the following questions:
- Are they drinking enough water?
- Do they have access to air conditioning?
- Do they know how to keep cool?
- Do they show any signs of heat stress?
Stay cool, stay hydrated
There are some simple and inexpensive ways to keep cooler during the summer.
- Find air-conditioned spaces such as libraries and senior centers for the hottest days of the year. Or, your local health department can help you locate an air-conditioned shelter in your area.
- Fans are a good boost for cooling, but they work by evaporating sweat from the skin, which may not work for some seniors. A fan is no substitute for air conditioning.
- Encourage seniors to drink on a schedule. By the time a person is thirsty, they are already close to dehydration.
- If an individual is on a restricted-fluid diet or takes water pills, talk to their doctor about how much they should consume during the summer months to stay adequately hydrated.
- Limit beverages with alcohol or caffeine.
- Keep frozen treats such as popsicles or sugar free popsicles in the freezer that can help you keep cool during hot weather.
- Eat cold foods such as sandwiches and salads.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables are also another way to keep hydrated.
- Avoid hot food and heavy meals.
- Make sure to have appropriate summer clothing – loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing in natural fibers help the body stay cooler.
- Cool showers, baths or sponge baths can help keep seniors cool.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Avoid strenuous activities, indoors and out.
- Keep shades, blinds, or curtains closed in the afternoons to keep the home cooler.
Signs of a heat stroke
Seek medical care immediately if you recognize the signs of heat stroke or heat-related illness:
- High body temperature (103°F or higher)
- Hot, red, dry, or damp skin
- Fast, strong pulse
- Losing consciousness (passing out)
What to do
- Call 911 right away and tell them it is a heat stroke
- Move the person to a cooler place
- Help lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath
- DO NOT give the person anything to drink
Home Health Foundation offers Private Home Care Services through our provider – Commonwealth Nursing Services (CNS). Please contact CNS for information about ways they can assist with keeping your loved one safe at home by calling 978-459-7771 or email RN@CNS.org.