Important things to know with summer on the way
While many parts of the country are still thawing out from this ice-block of winter, it won’t be long now before the nice weather gets here. Unfortunately, those pleasant warm spells never seem to last too long, always quickly morphing into hot and sticky days. And while this is just an annoyance for a lot of us, for others, the hot weather poses a real danger, especially to seniors. People age 65 or older are generally more susceptible to heat-related ailments, including:
Heat exhaustion is typically the first indication that someone is getting overheated. Symptoms include dizziness, heavy sweating, headache, and nausea. However, in many cases, pulse and body temperature remain normal.
Heat stroke happens when the body is unable to regulate its internal temperature and it quickly goes up past 104°F. Symptoms often include faintness, confusion, rapid heart rate, and loss of consciousness. Someone experiencing heat stroke requires medical attention immediately, as it can lead to permanent disability or death.
Why are older people at a greater risk for these conditions?
As we age, changes to our bodies make us more vulnerable to illnesses related to heat. Often this has to do with a weakened immune system or the effects of chronic conditions. Risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- Inefficient sweat glands
- Poor circulation
- Kidney disease
- Being over or underweight
How medications play a role
A lot of people taking medication don’t know about all of the potential side effects, particularly where heat is concerned. For example, antidepressants and antihistamines affect the part of the brain that controls sweat production. Amphetamines increase body temperature. Sedatives and opioids can have an impact on someone’s awareness of pain or discomfort, which could cause warning signs to be ignored.
Health isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes to heat. Lifestyle factors can also make hot weather hazardous to seniors. These could be:
- Living in a very hot home
- Not being prepared for the weather
What can you do to help older loved ones stay cool?
With summer on the way, now is the time to think about the older people in your life and how they can be safe when the intense heat hits. There are a variety of things you can do to help, such as:
When the temperature spikes, make a point to visit your friend or family member as often as you can. In addition to ensuring that they are keeping cool, you can look for signs that the heat may be affecting them negatively.
Find out what medications they take
As mentioned, medications can cause harmful side effects where heat is concerned. It’s a good idea to know that they’re taking so you can understand what the ramifications may be.
Encourage them to stay inside
For folks who love gardening or sitting on the porch, staying inside may make them feel cooped up, but this is for their own safety. If they insist on going outside, it should be at the coolest times of day: early in the morning or in the evenings.
Do some food shopping
During summer months, it’s important to stay hydrated, but this doesn’t just have to mean drinking a lot of water. You can help them stock up on things like popsicles or watermelon and also encourage lighter, colder meals like sandwiches instead of hot and heavy dishes.
Make things nice and cool for them
Perhaps the best way to keep someone cool is to make sure they have the right air conditioning in their home – and that they use it. Many times, older people decide not to turn their AC on because running it all day can be expensive. This is particularly true with central air, which cools the entire home. If this is the case, you may want to consider adding a ductless mini-split. This type of system is designed to cool just one room or perhaps only one floor of a home. Extremely efficient, a ductless mini split is also quiet and very easy to operate.