Community Blog

Is Summer Heat a Risk for Aging Seniors?

By Ketan Patel

Now that the hot summer months are upon us, caregivers have to be aware that even slight changes in temperature can lead to heat stress in people 65 and over. A recent Harvard study found that even a 2 percent increase in temperature can lead to increased death rates for the elderly with certain health chronic health conditions.

The risk of death from heat stress can increase up to 4 percent for seniors with diabetes, and an increased risk was reported for seniors with chronic lung disease, heart failure and those who have suffered a heart attack. To make matters worse, the elderly sometimes do not realize that they are overheating and in harm’s way. Having an in-home caregiver to monitor the situation can be a lifesaver.

Seniors and Heat

The elderly don’t handle higher temperatures as well as younger people. They may have poor circulation and their bodies may not sweat effectively. Chronic medical conditions such as those listed above along with obesity and dementia can intensify the risk. Many seniors are on medications for Parkinson’s disease or hypertension, and others may be on diuretics that can add to the problem.

Protecting Seniors from Heat Stroke

Caregivers are often told to keep aging seniors in air-conditioning, make sure they are hydrated and ask them to dress appropriately in light weight and light colored clothing. However, many seniors feel cold in air-conditioned rooms due to poor circulation. They may insist on wearing a jacket or a sweater. Asking seniors to stay hydrated by drinking water or augmented water drinks can also be a problem when many prefer drinks containing dehydrating caffeine or an excess of sugar that is inappropriate for their inactive lifestyle.

Signs of Heat Stress

One of the first signs that an aging senior is feeling the effects of rising temperatures and may be at risk of heat stress is confusion or an altered mental state. For seniors outdoors in hot weather, this may be a sign of heat stroke. A medical emergency can occur if the senior passes out or collapses. If this happens, call 911 and remove as much clothing as you can while you wait for help. Cool the elderly person down by pouring cold water over their body, and if possible, have them drink something cold.

Here are some tips for keeping your aging loved one safe during hot summer months:

  • Turn on the air-conditioner
  • Close the shades to block out the sun
  • Make sure they stay hydrated
  • Keep them away from caffeinated drinks like iced coffee
  • Do not serve them alcohol since it is dehydrating
  • Serve fruit like watermelon that has a high water content
  • Have them wear light colored, loose-fitting clothing and a hat to shade the face from the hot sun

Home Care Services for Seniors                     

The home care providers at Home Helpers of South Shore can help protect your loved one from the effects of hot weather and by monitoring medication, preparing meals, and helping with bathing and dressing. A caregiver can provide transportation for social activities and scheduled doctor’s appointments, and help out if an emergency occurs.

Home Helpers of South Shore is owned and operated by a compassionate health professional with a strong understanding of the needs of aging seniors. Contact Home Helpers to help your aging loved one. Please fill out the form on the left and we will get in touch with you about setting up in-home health care, or call us at 781-585-1244 to determine the plan that is right for you.

We serve the following communities:

Abington , Braintree , Brockton , Buzzards Bay , Carver , Cohasset, Dighton , Duxbury , Falmouth , Halifax , Hanson , Hingham , Holbrook , Hull , Humarock , Kingston , Lakeville , Marshfield , Mashpee , Middleboro , Norwell , Pembroke , Plymouth , Plympton , Quincy , Randolph , Rockland , Sandwich , Scituate , Taunton , Wareham , Weymouth , Whitman