We’re writing this article on a lovely day in May. But even on nice days like this one, we always have one eye towards the future. Because, like it or not, truly hot weather is coming – and it’s important for seniors and their caregivers to get ready.
In our home of Chicago and around the country, summer days often mean scorching hot temperatures. For seniors, warm weather can pose a unique set of risks. As the University of Chicago Medical Center once found, 40% of the heat-related deaths in the United States were among those over 65 years old. The CDC, meanwhile, has noted that “people aged 65 years or older are more prone to heat-related health problems,” for a number of reasons.
As the CDC points out, seniors are at greater risk from the heat because of a few different factors:
- Older adults do not adjust as easily to sudden changes in temperatures
- Chronic medical conditions can impact how seniors’ bodies react to heat
- Prescription medicines can affect an older adult’s ability to regulate or adjust to temperatures, control perspiration, and handle sun exposure
As a family caregiver, one of your biggest jobs during the hot summer months may well be to help the senior in your life stay cool, comfortable, and – above all – safe. Here are seven ways to help your elderly loved ones beat the summer heat:
1.) Help your senior stay hydrated.
Regular hydration is important under the best of circumstances. On particularly hot days, helping your senior loved one remember to drink lots of fluids becomes even more crucial. The CDC encourages older adults to “drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.” If the senior is on specific medications or a doctor has limited their fluid intake, be sure to consult with a healthcare professional for more guidance.
2.) Avoid going outside and doing strenuous activities during the hottest parts of the day.
For seniors, trying to do strenuous activities during hot weather can be dangerous. As a family caregiver, try to help your senior loved one avoid overexertion. Keep an eye out for heat warnings, and encourage your loved one to stay cool and remain indoors as the temperature climbs to dangerous levels.
3.) Look for air-conditioned locations – like community centers, malls, libraries, or coffee shops.
If your loved one doesn’t have a suitable air conditioning system, it may help to look into public places where you and your senior can go to stay cool. As a bonus, taking your loved one out to a favorite place can help them stay social and remain connected to their community, even as the heat forces everyone to spend more time indoors. Look into senior centers, community centers, malls, libraries, and coffee shops in your area. When you’re in transit, be sure to keep the car cool, as well!
4.) Help your loved one dress for the weather.
During warm days, help your senior dress for the temperature. As the CDC points out, it may help to wear “loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.” The important thing is to help your loved one stay covered up to limit sun exposure, but still allow them to stay cool. Encourage your senior loved one to consider wearing light and easily removable layers, to help avoid overdressing for the heat.
5.) Avoid heating up the house.
On hot days, the little things we all do around the house can drive up the temperature even further. On particularly warm days, encourage your senior loved one to avoid using the oven or stove, running laundry, or relying too much on other heat-generating appliances. Use blinds to help keep out hot sun on particularly scorching days, and be strategic about opening the windows to create airflow. If possible, you might also encourage your senior loved one to use a slightly lower water temperature when bathing. As the CDC points out, showering in cooler water can work wonders for overheated adults.
6.) Find cooling solutions that work.
Be creative when it comes to helping your loved one stay cool – but don’t forget to make sure that their household’s tried-and-true cooling methods are in prime working condition! Before the summer heat really settles in, double-check their ceiling and standing fans, and check to make sure that their air conditioning systems are fully functional. Clean out vents and replace air filters to help promote a robust, healthy flow of clean air. Meanwhile, help your loved one choose a few cooling “hacks” to try out, such as keeping an ice pack in the freezer, using a damp cloth to cool down, or even stocking up on popsicles or frozen fruits.
7.) Learn the warning signs for heat exhaustion and hyperthermia.
As a family caregiver, one incredibly important step you can take to get ready for summer is to know the warning signs to watch out for. Older adults are at significant risk of hyperthermia in all its forms, including heat exhaustion, cramps, stress, and even heat stroke. Keep an eye on your loved one, and notice if they are displaying symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, nausea, or headaches. All of these could be signs that your loved one is having a bad reaction to the heat. The NIH encourages caregivers to get immediate medical attention if their loved one is showing any signs of heat stroke, including a significant increase in body temperature, “changes in mental status (like confusion or combativeness), strong rapid pulse, lack of sweating, dry flushed skin, feeling faint, staggering or coma.”
How Companions for Seniors Can Help
Looking for an extra set of eyes to help watch out for your senior loved one during the hot summer months? Need someone to help your loved one head to the pool, go to social events, or keep up with their summer to-do list? Or do you simply want your senior family to have a friendly face in their life, to play games, swap stories, and go for walks? Companions for Seniors is here to help!
If you have a loved one that you believe could benefit from the assistance of a professional caregiver, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the experts at Companions for Seniors.
We’re locally owned in the Chicago area, with clients in the city and suburbs, and we’re here to field any questions you may have about any aspect of caring for your aging loved one.
Our companions are trained, bonded, and insured, and can help you and your family shoulder some of the responsibility of caring for the senior in your life. We help provide seniors with a higher quality of life, while also offering respite and peace of mind for a family caregiver who might need some support.
We offer personalized care plans for each of our clients. Our caregivers can assist with activities of daily living, housekeeping, driving services, and more, all on a flexible schedule that works for you.
Have any questions? Want to get in touch? Don’t hesitate to give us a call at 866-910-9020, or fill out our contact form, available here.