August is here which means among the back-to-school television advertisements and final farmer market stands of the season, the thermometer continues to rise and the sun feels sweltering. The dog days of summer can be difficult on all of us, but seniors are especially vulnerable to serious health consequences in dangerously hot conditions. Here are just a few ways to keep your senior neighbors and loved ones safe.
Turn on the air conditioning.
First things first, turn on the air conditioning. Some seniors choose to keep the air conditioning off in the hopes of saving money. A fixed income is a real concern, but choosing to live without air conditioning can quickly cause heat stroke, breathing difficulties, or even death. When you check in on senior neighbors or loved ones, make sure that air conditioning is running.
Beware of clothing layers.
When it is hot out, dressing in inappropriate clothing can accelerate dehydration or heat exhaustion. Encourage your senior loved one to dress in loosely fitting and breathable clothes, opting to keep the sweater in the closet until autumn. If you notice that a senior neighbor or loved one consistently wears seasonally inappropriate clothing, it could be a warning sign of a more serious cognitive issue. Conditions such as dementia can decrease judgment, which can directly affect clothing choice.
Drink more water.
Dehydration is a serious health concern for seniors, and with summer heat increasing sweat production, dehydration can happen more quickly than in other temperatures. Encourage the senior in your life to drink plenty of water, and to steer clear of caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, as these only increase dehydration risk. Purchase a water bottle for your loved one and encourage them to keep it nearby, and to drink from it all day long. For reluctant water drinkers, try adding some flavor and pizazz by adding slices of citrus fruits, melon, or even cucumber to the water.
Most seniors already do not drink nearly enough water for average temperatures, let alone for extremely hot ones. Medication can decrease feelings of thirst, which can make chugging water seem unnecessary. Other diuretic medication can increase the need to go to the bathroom which can keep some seniors from pursuing activities they enjoy outside of the home. If you notice either of these scenarios is preventing your loved one from drinking enough water, talk to the doctor about other medication options.
Go outside safely.
Seniors don’t have to spend hot days indoors. Choosing to sit near the air conditioner all day may seem boring to a senior who wants to keep up with their daily walk or errands. When possible, encourage your senior neighbor or loved one to head outside during the early morning or at dusk, when the sun’s rays are not nearly as strong or warm. A morning stroll at 7am is a much better idea than one at noon. Educate and empower the seniors in your life to plan accordingly.
Get some help.
Summer heat is not only dangerous, but it can also cause feelings of fatigue. Choosing to work with an in-home caregiver is an excellent decision, especially if you are unavailable to do safety checks for your loved one. Choose to work with a caregiver who has experience with seniors of varying abilities, and who can offer safety check-ins as well as hands-on care to get housekeeping chores, errands, and personal tasks completed. Your loved one’s caregiver can assure safety, socialization, and health.
Are you ready to learn more about caregiver services? Give the team at CaringGivers a call. We have years of experience working with seniors throughout the greater D.C. area and are ready to develop a plan to meet your needs.