Summer Safety Tips for the Elderly
Staying cool in the hot Australian summer months can be a challenge for people of all ages; but it is especially important for seniors. For our ageing relatives and the entire senior population, the harsh Aussie weather can be a real troublemaker.
The reasons why heat impacts the elderly more so than a healthy, younger adult often go forgotten; as their immune system becomes more depleted, so too is a seniors ability to withstand the heat and humid conditions of summer. Sometimes, their internal sweating mechanisms no longer cool down their bodies the way they used to. With that in mind, it is vital for all to exercise caution and check in on their elderly loved ones to ensure they are coping with summertime the best they can.
As we age, our bodies lose the ability to perspire and to properly regulate body temperature. Through this process, the skin becomes thin and offers less protection from heat. The sun’s rays also make seniors increasingly susceptible to emergencies including heat exhaustion and stroke.
The summertime is a time of fun and relaxation for most people, but for seniors the heat and sun can be dangerous if the proper precautions aren’t taken. Here are some great tips that the elderly can use to make sure they have a fun and safe summer.
Seniors are more susceptible to dehydration than younger people as they lose their ability to conserve water as they age. They can also become less aware of their thirst and have difficulty adjusting to temperature changes. Remember to remind your elderly loved ones to drink water often to stay on top of their hydration levels.
Check with a medical professional to ensure that any medication being taken won’t be affected by higher temperatures - especially if you don’t have air conditioning in your home. Some medications are less effective if stores at higher temperatures and the last thing that anyone wants is for a preventable medical condition to become aggravated to due high temperatures.
Even the smallest increase in temperature can be detrimental to seniors who are coping with medical conditions. Shopping malls, movie theatres and libraries provide a welcome, cool space if a senior has no access to air conditioning. A public pool is also a great way for seniors to cool down! These places also offer a great opportunity for your loved ones to get out of the house and get some exercise without the exhaustion of the heat.
High temperatures can be potentially life-threatening, so communication plays a role of utmost importance in ensuring the safety of the elderly. Prompt your elderly loved one’s to alert you if they are spending an extended period of time outdoors, even if only gardening.
Also, for general day-to-day life make sure your elderly loved one knows who to call in case of an emergency. Prepare a list of emergency phone numbers and place them in an easy to access area, or give them to their carer. This way, the right people can be called to help quickly if need be.
Wear The Right Stuff
Everyone, including seniors, should dress appropriately for the hot weather. When it’s warm out, some people find natural fabrics - like cotton - to be cooler than synthetic fibres.
Stock summer wardrobes with light coloured and loose fitting clothing to help seniors feel cooler and more comfortable in the heat.
Sunglasses are very important too. Vision loss can be common among the elderly, and too much exposure to the sun can irritate eyes and, in some cases, cause further damage. Wearing sunglasses can protect eyes from harmful UV rays and preserve vision.
Know The Risks
During the summer, let your elderly loved one know to be particularly cautious about abnormally high body temperatures - a condition known as hypothermia. Heat stroke is an advanced form of hypothermia that can be very threatening, Make sure to educate seniors on the warning signs and to seek medical attention immediately if they ever experience the following symptoms:
- A Body Temperature Greater than 40 Degrees
- A Change in Behaviour such as Acting Confused, Agitated or Grouchy
- Dry, Flushed Skin
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Heavy Breathing and/or a Rapid Pulse
- Not Sweating, Even if it’s Hot Out
If an elderly loved one starts to feel any of these symptoms seek medical help immediately and then get them out of the heat, lie them down and place ice packs all over.
Sunscreen and Hats
Everyone, young and old, should wear sunscreen when outdoors - even for the most insignificant amount of time. The elderly especially need the extra sun protection to help keep them healthy. Caregivers, family and friends can help by gently reminding loved ones about applying sunscreen and helping put it on when necessary.
Hats are also a great idea, especially for those with light coloured hair and those with only distant memories of a full hear of hair. They will prevent a burnt scalp.
If your elderly loved one partakes in outdoor activities such as walking or gardening, make sure to get them wearing proper clothing and protective gear. It’s also very important for them to keep track of the time they are spending in the sun. Educate them so that they aren’t spending long periods of time outdoors and are drinking more water than usual when exercising.
Also, get seniors to consider getting their outdoor time in earlier in the morning, or later in the evening when the sun isn’t at its peak.
Summer means gardening, barbecues, and just enjoying the great outdoors, but the Australian sun can pose a major issue, especially for seniors If you take into consideration these tips for you and your elderly loved ones, there’s no reason you can’t have an enjoyable and fun filled summer, no matter your age!