Hot Weather Can Spell Danger for Seniors
As the June gloom leaves us and the weather heats up in southern California it is important to pay close attention to senior friends and loved ones, Unfortunately seniors suffer from a disproportionate share of heat related illness and deaths.
Seniors with Dementia or Diabetes are especially at risk. People with Dementia may not be cognizant of feeling overheated or thirsty and Diabetes can diminish sensation. Seniors with these issues may need to be prompted to cool off and drink plenty of fluids during hot spells. Seniors that are on specific medications such as tranquilizers or those that drink alcohol can also have a diminished sensation of heat related discomfort.
Seniors are more vulnerable to heat related problems for many reasons:
• Housebound seniors may be living without air conditioning and security fears may cause them to keep windows shut. Many cities set up special “Cool Zones” where seniors and others can cool off during exceptionally hot weather.
• Seniors may have heart issues that make it difficult for their bodies to circulate blood efficiently and dissipate heat. Pay close attention to seniors with heart disorders when it heats up.
• If electricity is disrupted, shutting off A/C and fans, seniors living alone may find it difficult to leave the rising indoor temperatures for a cooler location.
Here are some tips to help seniors prevent heat-related illness:
• Increase hydration during heat spells – always drink when feeling thirsty
• Sponge off with a cool towel or use ice packs
• Don’t wait until the heat overcomes you – seek a cool location when your home heats up
• Maintain your air conditioner – keep the filter clean for better efficiency and cooling
• Outdoor awnings, closed shades and draperies can keep the sun out and indoor temperatures cooler – consider blocking especially sunny windows with aluminum foil covered cardboard
• Consider purchasing portable fans for areas used most in your home and don’t be cheap – use your air conditioning when needed
• When the temperatures soar – reduce activity and stay in the coolest part of the home
• Hand-held, battery operated fans and misters can be of great help if the electricity goes out in a heat wave
When a heat wave is predicted be sure to stay in touch with elderly relatives and friends. Heat stroke symptoms include loss of appetite, nausea, lightheadedness and muscle cramps. Symptoms can come on all at once or develop slowly over days. If a senior is suffering from these symptoms offer chilled liquids and use measures to cool them off quickly – ice packs, cool compresses, cool bath. if symptoms continue despite these measures seek immediate medical attention. Heat stroke can be fatal if not treated in time.