Extreme heat is currently punishing the entire West region of the United States from Montana to New Mexico, and it has me overwhelming concerned about the millions of residents enduring it, most especially the senior population.
In as much as Floridians are impacted by intense heat during the summer months, our temperatures rarely ever reach 118-120 degrees! Furthermore, the theory that “it’s a dry heat,” really is misguided, because even without humidity, 120 degrees is definitely HOT!
All of this has me thinking about the Clearwater area and the 7 steps for seniors to stay safe when summer sizzles.
- Stay Hydrated. This goes for anyone of any age, but most importantly for seniors and the elderly. It’s been my experience that aging adults don’t typically drink enough water as it is, but it’s especially critical since seniors are more likely to be dehydrated. Aging bodies are unable to conserve as much water as they did when they were younger, and seniors rarely feel as thirsty. It is recommended seniors drink eight glasses of water or sports drinks each day and stay away from caffeinated and alcoholic beverages.
- Talk to your Doctor or Pharmacist. Most seniors take medications for any number of ailments or conditions. It’s critical to consult your doctor or pharmacist before spending time in the sun and heat to avoid possible negative reactions with prescribed meds. This is also an appropriate time to gain professional clearance to participate in the outdoor activities you wish to pursue.
- Wear Proper Clothing and Sunscreen. Select clothing that is lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting, preferably made from cotton or other natural fabrics. Wide-brimmed hats are also a good idea to shade the face, neck and shoulders. Additionally, seniors who know they will be outdoors should always liberally apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks UVA and UVB rays, SPF 30 or greater, to all exposed skin a minimum of 15-20 minutes before going outside. If plans include water fun, bring your sunscreen to reapply frequently and stay protected.
- Protect Your Peepers. Most seniors have some level of vision impairment anyway, but the sun’s dangerous rays can make vision even worse. Always wear sunglasses – prescription or otherwise – to protect eyes from those dangerous rays.
- Stay Indoors During Crunch Times. Schedule tee times, water aerobics, walks, or other outdoor activities earlier in the morning, before 10:00am, or during the evenings around sunset, when it’s not quite as hot.
- Cool-off. Lukewarm or tepid baths, sponge baths or showers can help seniors cool off. If those are not viable options, consider using wet washcloths, towels, or store-bought “Frog Togs” (or a similar product) that works with water to provide cool relief when applied to the neck, wrists, ankles and armpits.
- Prevent Unfortunate Falls. Some outdoor spaces and activities pose a fall risk to seniors. Uneven pavement, cracked patios and slippery pool decks are just a few examples. Be aware of your surroundings and pay close attention to your walking paths or activity areas to prevent unfortunate falls that could ruin your summer.
Heat Exhaustion vs Heat Stroke
Many people don’t have a clear understanding of heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion and heat stroke, so I am providing a few details here. Seniors should always stay cognizant of how they are feeling while in the sun to prevent heat exhaustion, which can easily lead to heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion may occur when your body becomes overheated and displays the following symptoms:
- Heavy Sweating
- Fast, weak pulse
- Cold, pale, clammy skin
- Muscle cramps
- Tiredness or weakness
If you experience any of these symptoms, move to a cool place, loosen clothing, apply tepid cloths to your skin or take a cool bath or shower, and sip some water. Call 911 or seek immediate medical attention if symptoms persist for more than one hour, they worsen, or vomiting occurs.
Heat stroke can become fatal if not caught in time. Signs of heat stroke include:
- High body temperature (Above 103 degrees)
- Fast, strong pulse
- Hot, red, dry or damp skin
- Loss of consciousness
If you or someone you know experiences any of these symptoms, call 911 or seek immediate medical attention! Move the person to a cool place and apply tepid cloths in an attempt to lower their body temperature. Do NOT give the person anything to drink.
A cool place is usually indoors in an air-conditioned space. However, if you do not have air conditioning, use fans to keep air circulating and lower room temperatures a few degrees. You may also cool off by going somewhere with air conditioning, like a mall where you can window shop; a library for peaceful reading; a restaurant for an inexpensive senior meal; a movie theater to capture the latest box office hit; or a visit to a friend or family member.
FYI: As a public service to seniors, the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps adults age 65 and older, who have limited incomes, cover the cost of air conditioners and utility bills. To reach your state’s LIHEAP program, call 1-866-674-6327.
If you or a senior you know plans to spend an extended period of time outside in the summer heat, you should always make sure a caregiver, family member or neighbor knows about the activity. That way, wellness calls can be scheduled to ensure you or your loved one does not get overheated and makes it back indoors safely.
I realize there are seniors with underlying health issues or conditions of aging that may limit their ability to go outdoors at all. For these seniors, I am happy to offer a FREE Consultation to discuss specific needs and create a personalized care plan to help improve their quality of life through non-medical in-home care, specialized Alzheimer’s, dementia or Parkinson's care, personal care, companionship, nutritional meal planning & preparation, homemaking assistance and more.
We, at Home Helpers® Clearwater, are honored to have received the Home Care Pulse – Best of Home Care® Provider of Choice Award for the fifth consecutive year: 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 & 2021. We proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠ 727.942.2539