With summer in nearly full force and increasing temperatures on the way, it’s important to be reminded of the dangers that these fun-filled summer months can bring. Whether you are a senior or are caring for an aging family member, it is vital to be aware of the dangers that can occur and make sure that proper precautions are taken to protect your loved one.
Many of these dangers stem from summer’s overwhelming temperatures and are commonly overlooked. One of the most dangerous of them all is the chance of hyperthermia, or more commonly known as heat stroke. Excessive heat causes health problems for individuals at any age, however seniors are at special risk. Those with preexisting respiratory problems such as COPD or asthma are at increased risk of heat-related illnesses. In order to adequately help your loved one prepare, here are some great tips that the elderly and their caregivers can use to make sure they stay cool and that everyone has a fun, safe summer.
1) Regular Check In’s
Communication plays a very important role, especially during the summer months. As an older individual, make sure you keep in touch with those who live around you. Meet your neighbors, and don’t be ashamed to ask if they could check on you. Although I’m sure many of your loved one’s have a busy summer planned, keep in touch with them as well and see if someone can take the time to stop by on a regular basis. If you are a caregiver or have an aging loved one or neighbor, make sure you call regularly and take the time to stop by and check in on them to see if they need any help.
2) Know the Risks
As an older individual, it is common to have a list of medications that they may be taking. Make sure you know the risks and the side effects that may occur. Some medication can impact internal temperature control, increasing their risk of a heat stroke. Talk to their doctor and make sure you know the warning signs of a heat stroke and what you can do to help keep you and your loved one safe.
Some of the warning signs for a heat stroke can include:
- A temperature over 104 degrees
- Abnormal behavior including aggravated mood swings, and confusion
- Dry, flushed skin
- Nausea or vomiting
- Rapid pulse and heavy breathing
3) Keep Cool
When you check in on your loved one, make sure you check on the temperature of their home. Is their air conditioner working? Do they have fans placed in the proper areas and are they working adequately? If they do not have an air conditioner, do they have a schedule or regular reliable transportation to take them to a public place such as the library where they can be in a cool environment. It is common for older homes to not come equipped with the ability for central air. However, it is possible to buy portable air conditioners or window units to keep your loved one cool and safe for a small price. Units and portable air conditioners can be found at your local store or online.
4) Protect Yourself
With the summer heat comes intense sunrays that can do just as much damage as the humidity itself. Make sure to stay inside during mid-day to avoid the rays of light that can be damaging and limit your exposure. It is important to maintain regular exercise outdoors, but limiting those actions to the beginning of the day during sunrise or at sunset is safer for the elderly community. Wearing loose fitted light colored clothing can help keep you cool as well as a hat that can protect you from damaging rays. It is also important to remember to protect your eyes. Excessive exposure can make existing eye problems such as macular degeneration worse. Seniors should protect themselves by wearing quality sunglasses that reduce their exposure to ultraviolent rays. Sun screen is also a must at any age to protect your skin and keep healthy. Just remember to keep reapplying for the best protection possible.
5) Bugs Beware
If you are to spend time outdoors make sure you are prepared for the insects that come with it. Mosquitoes tend to carry viruses that can be life-threatening. Make sure to use repellent to help reduce the risk of getting bit especially by one that carries the West Nile Virus or encephalitis. Ticks are also a danger and can cause serious health risks for seniors. Ticks can carry Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases. Make sure to do a regular tick check after outside exposure.
If you follow these tips, there is no reason why you and your loved one can’t have a fun-filled, adventurous summer. So enjoy the warmth before the winter months creep up on us once again and make sure you are taking the proper precautions to stay safe today.