The hottest days of the year have finally arrived. And so, it is very appropriate for us to remind older adults to take the necessary steps to prevent heat-related illnesses. Friends, family, and caregivers can all play a part to help ensure a safe and cool summer. Think summer safety!
While none of us is immune to heat-related illnesses, the elderly are more susceptible to the heat because their bodies become more vulnerable with aging. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says anyone 65 years or older cannot adjust as quickly to changes in temperatures. Plus, certain medical conditions and prescription medications can affect how your body responds to heat.
In severe cases, extreme heat can kill. MySanAntonio.com listed several cases of heat-related deaths in Texas 2017. The body of a woman was discovered at Big Bend National Park with signs of heat distress and dehydration. Also in 2017, a man who was on a Boy Scout trip died in west Texas from heatstroke.
“Remember, temperatures don’t have to be 100 degrees or more for seniors to get hyperthermia. They may get dizzy, confused or have other symptoms of heat exhaustion in any degree of heat,” said Andy Cruz, PRIDE PHC Vice President. “Make sure you are checking in on the seniors in your life. It doesn’t take much for a senior to get sick from the heat.”
As you keep an eye on the seniors in your life, here are 5 tips to better protect them from heat-related deaths and illnesses.
Elderly dehydration can easily occur from reactions to prescription medications, decreased kidney function and illness. Remind your loved one to drink water and stay away from alcohol or coffee, which are liquids which can lead to dehydration. Also, senior citizens may not be able to physically get up to get a drink of water. We recommend that you get them a pitcher of water or water bottles. Also, make sure they have easy access to their water. As for what type of water is best? A Harvard professor says carbonated water hydrates just as well as still water. Just make sure there is no salt or sugar in that water.
EAT HYDRATING FOODS
Fruits, vegetables, and soups can be an extra source of hydration. These foods have a high water-content and can help reduce the chance of dehydration.
Different types of fabrics, the fit of the clothing and the color of the outfit can do wonders to keep cool! Make sure their outfit is lightweight, light in color and loose. As much as we love the San Antonio Spurs, those Silver and Black shirts may not be the healthiest option for seniors in the summer.
USE FANS IF NO AIR-CONDITIONING
If your loved one doesn’t have air conditioning at home, get fans to keep the air flowing. There are also, public spaces like malls or theaters that have air-conditioning where they can go to avoid the heat. There are also, free fan relief for seniors during the summer. Catholic Charities of San Antonio, Inc., United Way, the city of San Antonio and other partners launch Project Cool to give out free fans. Check out Project Cool for more information.
EXERCISE WITH CAUTION
Any outdoor activities should be limited to the early morning or after the sun sets. But if they want to go outside for a walk, make sure they have a hat with a wide brim, sunglasses and bug spray. The West Nile Virus is especially dangerous for the elderly.
If you have questions or concerns about heat-related safety, the team at Pride PHC is always here to help.