Summer is the perfect time to unwind and connect with those closest to you. Basking in the sun's rays can do wonders for your overall well-being, both physically and mentally. During the warmer months, many older adults feel more motivated to stay active and social.
However, older adults and their loved ones should be aware of the potential dangers that come with the summer heat. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that in 2022, the average annual temperatures were among the warmest in the past 128 years. As temperatures rise, UV rays and heat-related illnesses become more intense, especially affecting the elderly. However, with proper precautions, you and your loved ones can still have a blast this summer season without any worries.
Why Are Older Adults More Vulnerable to Heat?
People over 65 are at risk of potential safety hazards due to extreme temperatures. As we age, it can become more difficult for our bodies to regulate themselves. This is because older adults are more susceptible to chronic medical conditions that can affect their body's response to temperature. Additionally, they may be taking prescription medications that alter their body's ability to regulate temperature or sweat. Chronic medical conditions can also change normal body responses to heat, while prescription medicines can impair the body's ability to regulate its temperature or inhibit perspiration. It's important for older adults and those around them, including neighbors, friends, relatives, and healthcare providers, to be aware of the effects of heat during the summer or warmer months and take steps to prevent them.
Seniors and Heat-Related Illnesses
Heat-related illnesses occur when the body becomes too hot and can no longer regulate its temperature. There are several types of heat illnesses; three of the most common are heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. Symptoms can include feeling thirsty, dizzy, weak, uncoordinated, nauseated, excessive sweating, cold, clammy skin, or a rapid pulse.
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. Signs of heat stroke may include fainting, changes in behavior, dry skin, a strong and rapid pulse, a slow and weak pulse, and no longer sweating despite the heat.
UV Safety for Aging Skin
As we grow older, our skin naturally loses some of its thickness and elasticity. This makes us more susceptible to the harmful effects of the sun's UV rays, including sunburn and an increased risk of skin cancer. Unfortunately, many older adults may not have been aware of the importance of protecting their skin from the sun when they were younger. However, given the long-term damage that UV rays can cause, it is crucial for older adults who may have spent years soaking up the sun to take proper precautions to safeguard their skin.
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Seven Essential Tips to Protect Seniors in the Summer
At Griswold, we value the safety of our senior clients, especially during the summer season. To help keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy while enjoying the warm weather, we have put together a detailed list of summer safety tips. Our goal is to provide you with a practical guide that will make your summer enjoyable and worry-free.
1. Regularly Visit or Consider a Caretaker
One of the best summer safety tips for seniors is to be in frequent contact with friends or family. During intense heat waves, your senior loved one should have a visitor at least once daily to ensure their health and safety. You can learn more about our services by contacting our caregiving team today at (877) 268-3277 or find a caregiver near you.
2. Monitor Water Intake
Experts recommend drinking eight glasses of water daily, which is especially important for those over 65. Elderly individuals have a harder time knowing when they're dehydrated, so encouraging them to drink fluids throughout the day is important.
3. Be Mindful of Medications
It's common for seniors to take medications on a daily basis. However, certain medications have been known to cause side effects, such as heightened sensitivity to ultraviolet rays. If you have any concerns, it's important to discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.
4. Wear Breathable Fabrics Indoors and Outdoors
Having your loved one wear loose-fitting and light-colored clothing can help keep their body cool and prevent heat absorption. Opt for breathable fabrics like cotton to regulate their body temperature. Layering is a great idea as it allows them to easily adjust to the temperature changes throughout the day. To add more protection, you can wear a hat to protect your scalp from direct sunlight.
5. Remember to Apply Sunscreen!
Protecting your skin from the sun is important to prevent skin cancer. Sunburn is a major cause of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. To avoid sunburn, use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and broad-spectrum protection before going outside. Broad spectrum protection shields your skin from all types of sun rays. Remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours and apply it to the top of your head if you have less hair.
6. Protect Your Eyes Against the Sun
Wearing sunglasses is important for protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays and reducing the risk of cataracts. To ensure maximum protection, choose sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays. Wrap-around sunglasses are particularly effective as they prevent UV rays from entering from the sides.
7. Stay in the AC and Limit Outdoor Activity
During hot summer days, seniors may have difficulty participating in their favorite activities. To protect them from the sun and heat, it's best to encourage them to stay indoors from 10 AM to 4 PM, which is the hottest time of day. It's important to spend as much time as possible in air-conditioned areas during hot and humid weather. If their home doesn't have air conditioning, taking them to places like shopping malls or public libraries can provide cooler air for a few hours.
Griswold is a pioneer in the non-medical home care industry and has been setting the standard since day one. For more than 40 years, we have helped over 100,000 families, and we look forward to helping yours. Our range of non-medical home care services caters to the well-being of your loved one. Visit our care services page or contact your local office to learn more today.