Our elderly loved ones are at exceptionally higher risk during these summer months, so with the extremely warm and welcoming weather over the past few weeks, and summer really beginning to start, we thought it would be a good time to post some helpful tips that will keep your elderly loved one safe.
- Keep in touch – with summer typically comes high temperatures, which can be life threatening, especially for the elderly who may have medical conditions, so communication plays an important role in ensuring their safety. If you’re elderly, or have an elderly relative, it’s usually a safe precaution to let friends, family and carers know to keep in touch. Carers especially should check on the health and wellbeing of their elderly loved ones at least twice a day.
- Hydration, hydration, hydration – elderly, as with the young, are much more susceptible to dehydration than younger adults, because their bodies lose their ability to conserve water as they age. In cases of poor awareness and memory, as with dementia, there is the higher risk that they may become less aware of their thirst and may even have difficulty adjusting to temperature changes. It’s important to make sure your elderly loved ones are drinking enough to replace what they lose during summer.
- Wear appropriate protection – everyone should wear sunscreen when outdoors, especially the elderly who need the extra sun protection to help them stay healthy. Family, friends and carers can help by gently reminding elderly loved ones to wear, and even help them apply, sunscreen. Hats and sunglasses are also a great idea, especially for those with light coloured hair, and to help protect their eyes from irritation and eye damage.
- Keep them cool – elderly are especially susceptible to temperature increases, even small increases, which can shorten their life expectancy and make chronic health conditions worse, as their bodies may not adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature. Make sure their homes are well ventilated and cool, and if out and about, think about good venues that provide cool spaces such as libraries, shopping centres, day centres and museums, to name a few.
- Check medication – for elderly who are taking medications, it is always a good idea to make sure that these are being stored in an appropriate place with the right conditions, as some medications are less effective if stored at templates higher than room temperature.
- Avoid extreme heat – during extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation from the body is slowed, so it must work harder to maintain a normal temperature. This is especially troublesome for the elderly. They should avoid this by staying indoors or under shade where it is usually much cooler, especially if waiting outdoors.
- Watch out for heat stroke – it’s very important to know how to identify the signs of heat stroke (hyperthermia), as the elderly are particularly at risk of this with the high summer temperatures. Heat stroke is when the body reaches abnormally high temperatures and can be a life threatening condition, so if you identify any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention immediately:
– Dry, flush skin
– Heavy breathing or rapid pulse
– Nausea and vomiting
– Unusually high body temperature
– Dizziness, confusion or agitation
If an elderly loved one (or anyone) starts to feel any of these symptoms, seek medication attention, get them out of the heat, lie them down and place ice packs around their body.
Other things to keep in mind are certain health factors, that may also further increase the risk for elderly, so extra special care should be taken with those who have the following health conditions:
- Heart, lung and kidney diseases, as well as any illness that causes weakness
- Poor circulation, inefficient sweat glands and changes in the skin caused by normal aging
- High blood pressure, or other conditions that require changes in diet
- Certain prescription medications may impede the body’s ability to regulate temperature
- Being substantially overweight or underweight
Follow these helpful tips to have a safe, enjoyable summer with your elderly love ones.
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