Summer in Wisconsin is a time of fun and relaxation with an abundance of things to do outdoors! For seniors, the heat and sun can be dangerous if the proper precautions are not taken. Here are some great tips that the elderly, as well as their caregivers, can use to make sure seniors have a fun, safe summer!
Seniors are more susceptible to dehydration than younger people because they lose their ability to conserve water as they age. Seniors also can become less aware of their thirst and have difficulty adjusting to temperature changes. Remember, everyone should drink at least half their body weight in ounces of water. So, pack water for those long summer drives, when doing activities outdoors, and drink plenty of water throughout the day.
CHECK WITH DOCTOR ABOUT MEDICATIONS
Check with your doctor to make sure that your elderly loved one’s medications will not be affected by higher temperatures–especially if they do not have air conditioning in their home. Some medications are less effective if stored at temperatures higher than room temperature (approximately 78 degrees Fahrenheit). The last thing anyone wants is for a preventable medical condition to become aggravated due to high temperatures.
KEEP YOUR COOL
Even small increases in temperature can shorten the life expectancy for seniors who are coping with chronic medical conditions. Shopping malls, movie theaters and libraries are great places to visit if a senior’s home isn’t air conditioned. They also provide an opportunity to get out of the house and get some exercise without the exhaustion of the heat. “Seniors are much more vulnerable to the harmful effects of heat, as their bodies do not adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature,” shares Dr. Lubna Javed of HealthCare Partners Medical group. “Some chronic medical conditions and prescription medications can impair the body’s ability to react efficiently to rising temperature.”
STAY IN TOUCH
For seniors, let friends and family know if you’ll be spending an extended period of time outdoors, even if you are only gardening, so caregivers can check on the health and welfare of their loved ones at least twice a day.
MEET YOUR NEIGHBORS
If you are elderly, see if a younger neighbor–or even one of their children– can come by and check on you occasionally to make sure everything is all right. The extra company and friendship is an extra bonus!
KNOW WHO TO CALL
Prepare a list of emergency phone numbers and put them where they can easily be found. This way, the right people can be called to help quickly preventing any further issues or preventing medical problems from getting worse. Fill out this SENIOR CARE EMERGENCY CHECKLIST: (http://www.care/ome/media/cms/pdf/Checklist_SeniorCare.pdf)
PROTECT YOUR EYES
Vision loss can be common among the elderly, and too much exposure to the sun can irritate eyes and cause further damage. Wearing sunglasses can protect your eyes from harmful UV rays and preserve your vision.
KNOW THE RISKS OF HYPERTHERMIA
Be cautious about abnormally high body temperatures, which is known as hyperthermia. Heat stroke is an advanced form of hyperthermia that can be life-threatening. Get medical attention if you or anyone you know is experiencing these symptoms:
*Body temperature greater than 104 degrees
*A change in behavior such as acting confused, agitated or grouchy
*Dry, flushed skin
*Nausea and Vomiting
*Heavy breathing or a Rapid Pulse
*Not sweating, even if it’s hot out
If your senior loved one enjoys outdoor activities such as walking or gardening, make sure they wear the proper clothing and protective gear. Keep track of time and do not have them stay out for long periods. Have them drink even more water than usual when exercising. It’s also best to exercise outdoors earlier in the morning or later in the evening when the sun is not at its peak.
Have a safe, healthy summer! We hope that these safety tips will make it easier for seniors and their caregivers to do just that!