With rising temperatures and increased outdoor activities, older adults may face health challenges that may require extra precautions. The aging process often impacts the body’s ability to regulate temperature effectively, making them more susceptible to heat exhaustion, dehydration, and other heat-related conditions.
However, by implementing simple summer safety tips to promote senior health and wellness, one can safeguard their health and ensure they enjoy the summer.
1. Stay Hydrated
During hot weather, seniors are more prone to dehydration. With age, the body’s ability to conserve water decreases, and the sense of thirst may also diminish, making it easier to overlook the need for hydration. Dehydration can lead to various health complications, including dizziness, confusion, urinary tract infections, and heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion or heatstroke.
Drink plenty of water
Consuming at least eight or more glasses of water daily is recommended. Seniors should carry a refillable water bottle wherever they go. Increase water intake if performing exercise or if the weather is too hot. Avoid caffeinated drinks, sugary sodas, and alcohol. These beverages can have a diuretic effect, increasing bodily fluid loss. Opt for healthier alternatives like herbal teas or infused water.
Set reminders on smartphones or use apps that send notifications at regular intervals to prompt hydration. These reminders can serve as gentle nudges to ensure seniors consume enough fluids throughout the day.
Alternative hydration options
In addition to drinking water, seniors can maintain their hydration levels by consuming water-rich fruits and vegetables. Add watermelon, cucumbers, oranges, strawberries, and leafy greens to their diet. These foods not only provide hydration but also provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
2. Protect Against Heat-Related Illnesses
Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are common concerns during summer. Heat stroke is a severe condition that requires immediate medical attention and can be life-threatening. Although less severe, heat exhaustion can still lead to dehydration, weakness, dizziness, and confusion. Recognizing the risks associated with these illnesses is the first step toward prevention.
During peak heat hours, seniors should stay indoors typically, from late morning to mid-afternoon. Indoor activities like reading, hobbies, or watching movies can provide entertainment and comfort during this time.
Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing made of breathable fabrics like cotton or linen to allow air circulation and help prevent overheating. Light-colored clothing can also reflect sunlight and keep the body cooler.
Protect skin and eyes
Wearing sunglasses with UV protection can protect eyes from harmful UV radiation and reduce the risk of eye-related complications from sun exposure. Seniors can also protect their skin from harmful UV rays by applying sunscreen with a high Sun Protection Factor (SPF). A broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher should be applied generously to all exposed skin, even on cloudy or overcast days. This helps prevent sunburn and reduces the risk of skin damage and potential complications.
3. Create a Cool Environment
With the temperature rise, maintaining a cool and comfortable living space becomes important for the health and well-being of seniors. High temperatures can pose risks to their health, particularly for those with pre-existing conditions or limited mobility. To ensure a safe and enjoyable summer, here are some safety tips for creating a cool environment within the living space.
Use air conditioners or other cooling devices
Air conditioners provide effective temperature control, especially during extremely hot days. If air conditioning is unavailable, consider alternative cooling options such as evaporative coolers or portable air conditioning units.
Close curtains or blinds during the day
Close the curtains or blinds during the day to block out excessive heat from direct sunlight. This can help prevent the rooms from heating up and maintain a cooler temperature indoors. Light-colored or reflective window coverings can be particularly effective in reducing heat absorption.
Optimize natural ventilation
As the temperature drops in the evening, seniors can open windows and doors to allow fresh air to circulate. However, ensure the outdoor air quality is suitable and not excessively hot or polluted.
4. Stay Active Safely
Regular physical activity improves cardiovascular health, strength, flexibility, and mental well-being. Regular exercise can also help maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and enhance mobility and balance. However, it’s important to be mindful of potential risks and take necessary precautions to ensure safety, especially when the weather is hot.
Exercise in shaded areas or indoors
Seniors are recommended to exercise in shaded areas to avoid direct sun exposure. This can include parks with ample tree coverage, covered outdoor spaces, or indoor exercise facilities. If exercising outdoors, wear lightweight and breathable clothing, and apply sunscreen. Seniors can also schedule their physical activities during cooler times of the day, such as early morning or evening
Opt for low-impact activities
Low-impact exercises are gentle on the joints and reduce the risk of injury. Swimming is an excellent option as it provides a full-body workout while keeping the body cool. Walking in air-conditioned malls or community centers can offer a comfortable environment for exercise, especially during extremely hot days.
Listen to the body
If experiencing dizziness, fatigue, or discomfort, it’s important to rest and seek shade or move to cooler environments. Overexertion in hot weather can lead to heat-related illnesses.
5. Be Mindful of Medications
During the summer months, it’s important to be mindful of the impact of heat on medications and take appropriate measures to ensure their effectiveness. Extreme heat can cause chemical composition changes, rendering medications less effective or even harmful.
Consult healthcare providers
Certain medications, such as insulin, certain antibiotics, and some eye drops or creams, can be particularly susceptible to heat-related damage. Professionals at health and wellness centers or medical clinics can guide storage requirements or recommend alternative options.
Store medications in a cool and dry place, away from direct sunlight and heat sources. Ideally, medications should be kept in a temperature-controlled environment, such as a cabinet or drawer, where the temperature remains relatively stable. Avoid storing medications in areas prone to heat, such as near windows, in cars, or the bathroom.
Take prescribed medications and refill in advance
Consistency and adherence to medication schedules are crucial for optimal effectiveness. Set reminders or use pill organizers to stay on track with the medication regimen. Refill the prescribed medications before they run out. This ensures an adequate supply of medications, especially if there are any delays or issues with pharmacy services during the summer months.
6. Travel Safely
Some essential advice for seniors planning to travel during the summer is as follows:
Inform a trusted person about travel plans
Before embarking on a trip, seniors should inform a trusted family member, friend, or neighbor about their travel plans. Share details such as the destination, itinerary, and contact information. It’s also crucial for seniors to have readily accessible emergency contact information while traveling. Carry a list of important phone numbers, including emergency services, your primary care physician and a trusted contact person.
Pack necessary medications and medical documents
Pack an ample supply of medications for the trip, including any over-the-counter remedies that may be needed. Carry a first-aid kit with essential items such as bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and specific medical supplies. Keep a copy of relevant medical documents, such as prescriptions, allergies, and insurance information.
Research and prepare for health risks
Different travel destinations may present unique health risks. Before traveling, research and prepare for potential health risks. Seniors can also consult their senior care service provider or visit reliable online resources to gather information on necessary vaccinations, local healthcare facilities, and any prevalent diseases or health concerns in the area. Following recommended precautions, such as getting vaccinated or using insect repellent, can help seniors stay protected.
Practice good hygiene and preventive measures
Seniors should maintain good hygiene practices, especially during summer. Wash hands frequently, use hand sanitizers, and avoid close contact with sick individuals to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading germs that increase with higher temperatures and humidity. Seniors should follow local health guidelines, including mask-wearing and physical distancing, to minimize the risk of contracting or spreading illnesses.
The Bottom Line
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people aged 65 or older are more prone to heat-related health concerns. To support seniors in their health and wellness journey, Elite Care Health Center offers a range of services tailored to meet the unique needs of seniors, including regular and annual physical exam, medication management assistance, referrals, and more. We ensure seniors receive the best care and guidance to stay ready for summer and its potential consequences.
Let’s confidently embrace summer, knowing we have taken the necessary precautions to stay safe and thrive during these warm and sunny months.