Seniors love summer as much as anyone, but as they age it can be increasingly difficult to weather the season when the Texas heat becomes both excessive and oppressive. If a senior lives alone, they must be extra careful to take safety precautions in order to avoid dangerous conditions. Here are some suggestions to help seniors deal with the heat.
Stay inside, if at all possible, and keep hydrated. The higher the humidity and temperature, the more heat generated by the body, and the harder it is to replace water lost by sweating. Seniors should drink 6-8 glasses of water per day, whether or not they feel thirsty…and whether or not they are outdoors or indoors. Sodas and caffeinated beverages, as well as alcohol, should be avoided, but it is fine to drink lemonade or ice tea.
Keep outdoor exercise and strenuous activity at a minimum. During the hottest time of the day (noon to around 4 p.m.), any outside activity can contribute to such dangerous conditions as heat stroke, heat cramps and severe dehydration because the body is working doubly hard. Exercising in the early morning is recommended, and frequent breaks are a must, even when doing slower activities like walking.
Run the air conditioner 24/7. Keep the air conditioner set to a comfortable temperature. A wireless thermostat with a handheld remote control or a phone-controlled thermostat (that caregivers or family can control) is a great idea. Some seniors try to avoid turning on the A/C to save money, but they need to be convinced that it is unhealthy to leave it off, especially during a heat wave. Keep curtains drawn and fans turned on to reduce energy bills.
Stay protected from the sun. If seniors do go outside, it is best to apply sunscreen or sun block on any exposed parts of the body to protect from harmful rays and sunburn. Wearing light, loose-fitting clothes (especially bright colors, which reflect the sun) and a hat to protect the head and neck are important. Seek shade if possible.
Eat lighter foods, and in small portions. Heavy meals are discouraged during the summer, because they can make the body work harder and overheat. Foods that are best include yogurt, fruit and vegetables. Vegetables and fruits with a high water content, such as watermelon, lettuce, oranges and cucumbers, also help with hydration.
Be alert for signs of heat exhaustion. Caregivers and seniors themselves should be alert for excessive sweating, body weakness, headache, rapid pulse, nausea/vomiting or muscle cramps. Call 911 if any of these symptoms are experienced. You might invest in a bracelet or other senior alert system should an emergency arise.
The professionals at Homecare Assistance of Fort Worth provide in-home care that is attentive to the special needs of seniors during the summer, both indoors and outdoors.