As the temperatures rise, family caregivers may be concerned about the safety of their senior family members. Statistics have shown that hot weather can be harshest on older people and children. Precautions are needed if the senior will be active outdoors; they also need to be careful indoors if they do not have the proper air conditioning.
High temperatures force your body to work harder to keep you cool, and it can cause many heat-related problems. Some of these issues can be life-threatening, especially for seniors. They tend to sweat less than younger people, which is the body’s natural cooling system. This may cause them to get overheated in a shorter amount of time.
One of the most dangerous situations comes from spending too much time outside. The person may not even realize that they have gotten too hot until symptoms begin. Here are a few tips to prevent problems before they start:
- Drink plenty of water. This is often an issue for seniors who may naturally reduce their water intake. Caregivers can remind them to drink before they are thirsty. Relying on thirst is not a good indication of hydration, especially for seniors.
- Use sunscreen when they are outdoors, even if they are in the shade. Reapply it often since the protection fades over time. Older people skin is thinner and will burn quicker than other adults’ skin.
- Limit activity during the hottest parts of the day. If the senior likes to work in the garden, they should do it early in the morning or in the evening. Caregivers can remind them to stay inside. While physical exercise like walking is recommended, it should only be done during the cooler part of the day.
Seniors must protect themselves from heat issues even when they are indoors. They often do not realize how hot a room is and should check the thermostat. Even homes with air conditioning can have the unit temperature turned up too high. Caregivers should check the temperature and remind the person to keep it on a cool temperature.
If the person does not have air conditioning, they need to spend the hottest hours of the day in an air conditioned location. This can be at a family member or friend’s house or at a shopping center or library.
Many seniors have air conditioning but don’t like to use it because of the cost. In those situations, there are several things you can do to make their home more energy efficient.
- Close curtains over windows to keep the heat out.
- Keep doors and vents closed in rooms not in use.
- Use ceiling and portable fans.
To keep the person cool, a caregiver can encourage them to take a cool bath or shower. Use a cool washcloth to pat the back of the neck, face, and wrists to help cool skin. They should also wear lightly colored, cotton clothing that allows air to pass through.
Family Caregivers should discuss with the doctor any medication the person is taking that could affect their ability to handle the heat. If the person complains of dizziness, rapid heartbeat, nausea, or fainting, they should seek medical attention right away. Heat exhaustion or heat stroke can be dangerous for older people.
If you have a senior family member that lives alone, check in on them frequently during hot periods. Any time there is a heat warning, it should be taken seriously. Many people do not realize they are getting overheated until it is too late and they are sick.
While the hottest time of the day is usually between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. dangerous temperatures can last much later in the day. A house that is not adequately ventilated can even be too hot during the night.
Homecare services can help with heat-related concerns by providing a caregiver to check in on the senior during the day. They can stay with them to make sure they are safe and hydrated. They can provide guidance on things to do to stay cool, and if they get too hot, they can contact appropriate personnel for help.
Our caregivers at Carefect Homecare Services understand your concerns about your loved one. We provide non-medical assistance such as personal care and housekeeping to help the senior. Our caregivers are trained to handle heat issues, both in preventative way and in responding to health concerns. We can give you peace of mind when you can’t be with your family member so that you know they are taken care of.