Seniors are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses for a number of reasons. Their body’s ability to sense when they may be too hot can be impaired with age. This could be caused by cognitive impairment or aging problems with the nervous system. Older people aren’t able to thermoregulate as well as younger people do, making them more sensitive to the stresses of excessive heat.
In America, 12,000 people die from heat-related causes and more than 80% of those victims are older than 60. If you are worried about your elderly parents staying cool this summer, don’t worry. Luckily, there are precautions you can take to help keep your aging loved ones safe.
Why are seniors more sensitive to heat?
Seniors are more vulnerable to heat for multiple reasons.
- Older adults have a decreased ability to sweat because their bodies retain less water. This causes a decrease in sweat production, and reduces the ability to cool the body.
- Underlying health conditions. Many seniors have health conditions that make them less able to tolerate high temperatures. For instance, illnesses that affect the cardiovascular system make it difficult for the body to regulate internal temperatures.
- Some medicines that seniors take can cause an increased risk of dehydration. Medications that treat heart disease, kidney problems, and blood pressure commonly have diuretic effects. This means they cause the body to expel water.
- Lack of proper hydration. Seniors can often lose their appetite or urge to drink. This can cause them to not stay hydrated, which is important for keeping the body healthy. Staying hydrated prevents dehydration, cognitive decline, and physical weakness.
How to keep your elderly parents safe this summer
Taking the following precautions is a surefire way of keeping your aging parents safe this summer, even in a heat wave. To prevent heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or other heat-related illnesses, follow the list below.
Dehydration is often the main reason for heat-related health problems. Keep your loved ones hydrated! Dehydration removes important salts and minerals in the body, causing dizziness, fatigue, headaches, and other issues. In severe cases, it can even lead to serious health consequences, such as bladder infections, kidney stones, and more.
To prevent this, keep your parents hydrated with hydrating drinks. This includes water, 100% juice drinks, sports drinks rich in electrolytes, and coconut water. You should try to avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
Choose The Right Clothing
This may seem obvious, but it can often go overlooked. It’s important to ensure your loved ones are clothed carefully when it’s hot outside. Ensuring that their clothes are light but cover most of their skin can prevent sunburns and heat exhaustion. Accessories like umbrellas can help significantly when the sun is scorching.
Choose to dress your elderly parents in light-colored clothes, lightweight fabrics, loose-fitting clothes, and hats or sunglasses.
For periods of extreme heat, like during a heat wave, you should be strategic in your timing outdoors. The best time to take your parents outside during a heat wave is before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m.. At these times, the temperature tends to be cooler and is less of a hazard for the elderly.
To stay cool inside, close all windows and blinds during the day, take cool baths and showers, use light bed linens, and turn off artificial lights that could heat up the room.
Most people think staying hydrated stops at drinking water. However, there are many hydrating fruits and vegetables that can help keep your loved ones healthy and hydrated. Have them available as a snack to combat the heat. These hydrating foods include: watermelon, strawberries, grapefruit, pineapple, starfruit, cucumbers, lettuce, celery, radishes, and zucchini.
Staying calm and taking it easy in the summer is a good way to keep your aging loved ones healthy and with high energy levels. While senior exercise is good, heat can threaten some of the health and safety benefits of physical activity. Sun exposure, for example, can cause their body to work overtime to keep cool, deplenishing their energy. It can also increase their heart rate and metabolic rate. Just sitting outside in the direct sunlight can leave them fatigued.
Check the humidity. If it is high, it’s best to relax and avoid energy-intensive outdoor activities. This could include gardening, lawn care, and exercise. Instead, indoor activities, such as cooking, board games, or story telling.