8 Safe Summer Tips for the Elderly

Image by Witthaya Phonsawat, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Image by Witthaya Phonsawat, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

While the summer draws people outdoors to enjoy the sunshine, there are potential dangers that exist, particularly for the elderly. Dehydration, sunburn, sunstroke, eye damage and heat exhaustion are all serious health concerns that must be considered once the hot weather arrives.

Here are 8 tips on how to safely enjoy the warm summer months with your elderly loved one.

  1. Have plenty of fluids on hand. Everyone should drink at least 8 cups of water a day, but we are more susceptible to dehydration as we age. Proper hydration is essential in the heat, whether you are indoors or out, and often times, seniors aren’t aware when dehydration has already started.  Cold drinks may be easier to consume in hot weather, so think ahead and keep a bottle of water in the fridge or freezer at all times. Try to stay away from sugary, alcoholic, carbonated and caffeinated drinks as they will not hydrate properly.
  2. Proper sun protection. Apply sunscreen (at least SPF 15) daily as part of getting dressed in the morning, this way you won’t forget on your way out, and carry a bottle with you in case you need to reapply. Wearing a large brimmed hat and wrap around sunglasses (that filter all UVA and UVB rays) will protect both the face and the eyes from damaging UV rays. When possible wear loose-fitting, long sleeves or pants from a light, reflective material like cotton to add additional protection to the skin.
  3. Check the weather. Severe heat can be very dangerous, especially for the elderly. In order to be properly prepared you need to know when a heat wave is expected. When exceptionally hot weather is coming, arrange for your loved one to be in an air conditioned environment as much as possible. Trips to indoor locations with air conditioning such as the mall, the movie theater, a friend’s house or the library are great options.
  4. Limit time outdoors during peak sun hours from 10-4. Try to plan your day around being near a fan or air conditioner during the hottest parts of the day and if that is not possible, at the very least find a shady spot to rest in.
  5. Check medications. Some medications may cause increased sensitivity to UV rays which can have adverse reactions when the patient is exposed to the sun. Additionally, some medications affect patients’ ability to adapt to rising temperatures or are less effective when they are exposed to severe heat. Speak to your loved one’s medical team to be aware of any precautions that should be taken.
  6. Be aware of the signs of heat stroke. Symptoms of heat stroke include:
  • Becoming confused, agitated or disoriented
  • Suddenly being excessively tired and lethargic
  • Nausea
  • High body temperature
  • Rapid pulse
  • Headache
  • Dry, flushed skin

If you notice these symptoms in your loved one seek medical attention immediately.

  1. Know the risks. Elders with certain medical conditions such as heart disease, heart failure, diabetes and lung disease are at greater risk in the hot weather.
  2. Stay in touch. If your loved one is not under your care, be in touch at least twice a day to ensure he or she is staying safe and hydrated.

Let us know if you have any questions about keeping your elderly loved one safe during the summer months, and if you are seeking caring, professional home care for your family member, contact us at 718-998-1999 today.