Nobody likes extreme and prolonged heat, but such conditions can be deadly for seniors. On average, more than 1,500 people in the U.S. die each year from excessive heat, according to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). This number is greater than the 30-year mean annual number of deaths due to tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and lightning combined.
The elderly are often the most vulnerable to severe heat, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Why? “Their bodies do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature, they are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat and they are often on a prescription medicine that impairs the body's ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibits perspiration,” says Home Instead Senior Care Branch Manager, Cheryl Smith.
“If you are a senior or caring for an elderly individual,” says Cheryl, “the following tips will help them combat the heat:
• Keep a glass of water in every room to quickly and easily access fluids. Drink plenty of fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty.• Go through the closet and remove all heavy materials, long sleeves and dark colors. Store them until fall.• Set fashion trends. If you’re in need of new clothes, check out the latest fashion magazines. Look for short sleeves, lightweight rayons or cottons, and light-colored clothing that reflect the heat.• Stay out of the sun during the hottest times of the day. Fill up your bird feeder in the morning and water the lawn at night. Sunburn makes the job of heat dissipation that much more difficult.• Put down that broom! Save household chores, particularly washing and drying clothes and operating the dishwasher, for evenings, when the weather is cooler. • Take a nap during high heat times – between 3 and 5 p.m. in the afternoon, for instance – or find a good television program or movie to watch.• While you’re napping or enjoying a movie, keep shades down and blinds pulled. Keeping a house tightly closed is more energy efficient.• Invite your friends over for an iced tea break. Replace coffee breaks with iced tea or lemonade breaks in an air-conditioned spot – not the patio. Staying in an air-conditioned dwelling during hot days is safer.• Put away that meat loaf recipe for the summer and track down new recipes for fruit and vegetable salads. Foods like proteins that increase metabolic heat production also increase water loss.• If increased use of a central air conditioning system causes higher utility bills that are a problem for your budget, consider purchasing a fan or small window unit that can cool down a home at a lower cost. In fact, window fans provide an effective way to exhaust the day’s hot air during the night.”
For more information about the heat, visit the National Weather Service Web site at http://www.noaa.gov and the Federal Emergency Management Agency Web site at www.fema.gov.
Home Instead offers free monthly newsletters with tips and advice for caregivers of elderly loved ones.