6 Summer Safety Tips for the Elderly

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Summer is my favourite time of year. I look forward to long scenic bike rides, pool parties and weekends at the cottage. While it’s great to get outside for long stretches of time and enjoy the warm air and bright sunshine, seniors must be careful of season’s heat and humidity.

Part of the reason why older people can’t handle the heat as well as those that are younger is because they don’t sweat as effectively and have poorer circulation. Older adults are also more likely to have medical conditions or are on medications that limit their ability to respond to changes or affect their cooling system, perspiration. Obesity, heart disease, dementia, diabetes and other chronic medical conditions are examples of conditions that compound this risk.

In order to safeguard your senior loved one from heat-related illnesses, as extreme as stroke, there are steps we can take to minimize the risk and ensure that they are able to take advantage of the benefits of this wonderful season.

  1. Review weather forecasts and make sure they ride out the extreme heat in a place that is air conditioned. If not in their home, plan for activities in a community centers, museums, shopping malls, etc. where the temperature will be controlled. Perhaps, there is a neighbor of family member whose home they can spend some time at.
  2. While margaritas at a beach front patio restaurant may seem attractive for most, these types of beverages will dehydrate your senior loved one and make them prone to the elements. Encourage them to drink plenty of non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated beverages, especially water.
  3. Dress in loose-fitting, light-colored clothing made of light fabrics such as linen and cotton. Hats are purposeful and can be very fashionable, but make sure that they are loosely woven or ventilated so they don’t trap heat. The best are those that are broad-brimmed so they shade the entire face.
  4. Use Sunscreen, with an SPF of at least 30, on all exposed body parts including the face and ears
  5. Avoid overexerting with strenuous activity; have family members or caregivers assist with these types of activities or if really necessary do these tasks really early in the morning. Periodic naps might also be a good idea.
  6. If you must be outdoors, stay in shaded areas near trees and/or water.

In spite of the potential hazard to seniors, summer is a great season! Knowing about the potential implications of extreme heat and taking preventative measures will ensure that they enjoy summer as much today as they did years ago. It may be that a day at the beach is swapped for some time at a public pool and a fancy “mock-tail” substituted for that margarita but the memory of this summer will markedly be remembered by the quality of time you spend with your senior loved one.

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