Top 10 Ways To Beat The Heat This Summer. Seniors Edition.
Summer is finally here! We have been waiting for those sunny days for so long. Now we can get outside, enjoy family gatherings and outdoor activities with our elder parents. However, Summer has become one of the most insidious and even dangerous seasons due to global climate change. And especially - for seniors.
The air pollution and UV radiation that are most hazardous for the older generation, especially those who suffer from cardiovascular diseases, increase dramatically during the season. Numerous senior care experts warn about the worsening of numerous health conditions precisely during the summer.
However, it is not a reason to deprive your older relatives of all the Summer activities. In this blog, we shall observe the true risks of summer heat for senior citizens and explain how you can arrange healthy outdoor activities for your elder parents and help them keep cool at home.
Is it too hot outside?
Before talking about the risks and dangers of overheating, let`s clarify which temperatures you may consider extreme and why. You might have noticed that the same 86°F (30°C) may feel differently in Philadelphia, Florida, or Texas.
Another interesting phenomenon you might have noticed is that 59°F (15°C) in autumn may feel cold. But in Spring, you may feel pretty comfortable outside at the same temperature. And of course, there are always those people who say that they know natural heat, and therefore your 86°F (30°C) is a pretty habitual and even comfortable temperature for them.
At the same time, we all know that senior citizens often feel cold all the time. It happens because blood circulation tends to decrease with age. Our blood vessels lose elasticity, and lower blood circulation is the body`s mechanism to adapt and protect itself. The lower your blood circulation is, the colder you feel. However, the fact that your older parent may feel cold even when it is 80°F outside does not mean that the heat does not affect him or her. That is why senior care experts always warn that proper temperature regulation is crucial for senior citizens` health.
Indeed we may feel the same temperatures differently in different parts of the world or even throughout the year. It happens due to several factors:
Our bodies can adapt to current temperatures, slowing down or boosting our blood pressure and metabolism to survive in the current conditions. That is why we may consider the same temperature cold and comfortable depending on the current season;
The way we feel temperature does not entirely depend on what the thermometer displays . The humidity level is one of the crucial factors that determine how you will feel outdoors today. The higher the humidity is, the more extreme the temperatures become. For example, the standard summer 86°F (30°C) would feel like a pretty harsh 97°F (~36°C) in a 75% Humidity;
The landscape also plays an essential role in climate changes and peculiarities. If you have ever lived on mountain terrain or next to a desert, summer heat will affect you differently than next to the seashore.
Global warming causes more intense water evaporation from the Earth`s surface, which raises humidity levels worldwide. If your family lived in the same area for several generations, you might have noticed that both summers and winters don`t feel the same as they did back in the day when you were a kid. Raising humidity levels make temperatures feel more extreme. A Humidity-Heat Index calculator can help you determine what the weather outside really feels like and whether it is safe to enable outdoor activities for elder parents or it would be better to keep them cold at home.
How can senior citizens stay safe and cool in the summer?
There are 10 basic rules based on advice from senior care experts and healthcare providers that will help you keep your older parents safe during the summer.
1. Minimizing direct exposure to the Sun
Senior citizens are most prone to skin diseases caused by direct UV light. It happens because the skin – the main defense organ of our body - tends to wear off and lose its effectiveness with time which makes seniors more vulnerable.
Also, as previously mentioned, due to lower blood circulation, older people sometimes don`t even notice that they get overheated until the first severe symptoms like headache or nausea appear.
To reduce the risk of overexposure to direct sunlight, it is better to stay home between noon and 4 PM, when the solar radiation is most aggressive. It is also essential to wear light clothing out of natural materials that covers as much skin as possible. And of course, don`t forget about summer hats and umbrellas.
2. Drink plenty of water
Hydration is the key to staying safe during the summer heat. Moreover, elderly citizens often tend to lose liquids faster and get severely dehydrated without even noticing. Make sure to have a bottle of fresh water in your bag all the time.
It is also better to avoid alcohol, sodas, or sweet drinks, including juices, in the summer. Not only do such drinks contain loads of sugar, but some of their ingredients act as absorbents, dehydrating even more. In other words, they soak water from tissues instead of enriching your body with moisture.
Clean, cool water is the best summer drink.
3. Wear sunscreen all the time. And don`t forget about bug repellent.
It is impossible to overrate the importance of sunscreen, especially during the summer. Elderly people appear to be most prone to skin irritations and sunburns and their consequences. That is why a senior professional home health caregiver always has a bottle of sunscreen in the bag.
Another important thing is to get a quality bug repellent. Insects get most aggressive in the summer. The bites can cause irritations and allergies that tend to develop with age.
4. Keep cool at home
According to the data from leading senior care experts, the amount of health complications and deaths usually skyrockets during summer heat waves. It happens because elderly citizens often fail to feel the real temperature around them and fall victims to overheating.
It is essential to make sure that the house remains cool and properly ventilated during the summer.
5. Keep cool in the car
According to the latest data, only in Philadelphia in 2020, there were 0 registered heat-related deaths where Philadelphia had a previous record high 118 deaths in July of 1993. Some of the deaths reported were due to overheating in the car.
Just like you would maintain a healthy temperature and air circulation inside the house, it is essential to create a comfortable microclimate inside a car. No matter whether we are talking about short drives or long road trips – cars get overheated faster than buildings causing most heat-related fatalities worldwide.
6. Avoid stress
Stress can make your cardiovascular system start suddenly working at its edge, streaming large volumes of blood through vessels weakened by aging. Combined with external overheating, such leaps can lead to loss of consciousness and more severe health complications.
7. Don`t give up on physical activities
Many senior citizens think that it is safer to avoid any kind of physical activity during summer to stay safe. It is partly true. Outdoor summer activities may be pretty dangerous for an older person.
However, giving up on exercise is even more dangerous. Regular exercise helps to strengthen and maintain the cardiovascular system and prevent numerous aging-related diseases. Aqua-aerobic and swimming are the best therapy for arthritis and other motor system diseases, which is also a perfect summer activity.
It is only essential that those activities are held in a safe place and under the supervision of senior care professionals or relatives.
8. Know dehydration and overheating symptoms.
Signs of overheating and dehydration are pretty common:
Fatigue and/or fainting;
Irritated, dry, and itchy skin;
A soon as you notice any of those symptoms, make sure to take a break and drink plenty of water. Once the symptoms don`t pass immediately after you get into a shelter and drink plenty of water, it is essential to seek medical assistance.
9. Know how your medications correlate with heat
Certain medications such as antipsychotics, tranquilizers, antidepressants, and over-the-counter sleeping pills can severely alter the body`s ability to recognize and adapt to temperatures. Make sure to revise all the side effects and contraindications of your medication plan and ask the doctor about possible warning signs and safe analogs for those meds that may not correlate with summer heat well.
10. Make sure to have access to assistance 24/7
It is essential that a senior citizen has an efficient and instant way to address for assistance 24/7, especially during the summer heat wave. Home Health Aides', Caregivers`, relative`s and doctors` contacts should be accessible and easy to use. It is always best to establish a routine between relatives and senior caregivers to make sure that they check up on elder parents regularly and make sure that they are safe during the day.
Summer heat can be dangerous for everyone, but the hazard increases as long as we age and our bodies lose their protective and adaptive mechanisms. Keeping safe and cool during the hot season will help you and your whole family enjoy all the summer activities and spend time together with your beloved ones living a full and happy life.
Are you looking for home health care services in or around Philadelphia, PA?
If you are seeking senior in-home care for you or your loved one, then Sunflower Home Health Care Services is here for you. Our highly skilled team operates across Philadelphia and all surrounding counties, we pride ourselves on offering home care with a difference.
Our in-depth range of services can ensure you do not need to move your loved ones to a nursing home or other assisted living facility. We have a family-first approach, which means we treat everyone we work with as if they were part of our own family, giving you complete peace of mind that you or your loved ones are in the best care possible.
Sunflower Home Health Care Services offers a wide range of services including companionship, respite care, hospice care, taking vitals, housekeeping, meal prep, and other medical needs. So if you are looking for the very best care for yourself or your loved ones, get in touch with our team today.