Hot Weather Safety for Older Adults
People aged 65 and older are more prone to heat-related problems, which can lead to serious medical issues that may even require hospitalization if not properly cared for. Exposure to heat like this can lead to many issues, such as heat stress, tiredness, cramps, exhaustion, stroke and other forms of hyperthermia.
Hyperthermia and the Elderly
Getting too much heat is not safe for anyone, but the problem can become even more severe for the elderly. If you do not get relief quickly it can lead to problems, such as confusion or fainting. It can even lead to heart-related issues that may cause it to stop beating.
Some common heat-related issues that can affect older adults include:
Heat Syncope – Heat syncope is characterized by sudden dizziness that can occur when you are active in hot weather. Taking a heart medication called a beta-blocker can exacerbate these issues and make you even more likely to faint. Resting in a cool place and putting your legs up will help make the dizziness subside.
Heat Cramps – Heat cramps are a painful tightening of muscles in the stomach, arms or legs that can result from hard work or exercise. If you are dealing with issues related to heat cramps, it is important to find a way to cool the body down.
Heat Edema – Heat edema occurs when there is swelling in the ankles and feet when you get hot. If the problem becomes severe enough you may need to seek the help of a doctor.
Heat Exhaustion – This type of hyperthermia is a warning to your body that it can no longer keep itself cool. During heat exhaustion, you might feel thirsty, confused, weakened, dizzy, nauseated and it can cause you to sweat profusely. Many times, people with heat exhaustion have a rapid pulse. If the problem persists, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.
Heat Stroke – Heat stroke is considered a medical emergency. If you or a loved one is dealing with heat stroke, they need to seek out medical help as soon as possible. Some signs of heat stroke include fainting, dry and flushed skin, not sweating, weak pulse and more.
Tips for Staying Cool
There are a number of obvious tips that can help older adults stay cool during the hot summer months. For example, staying in an air-conditioned building as much as possible is a great way to avoid the heat. However, there are many other, often overlooked, tips that help deal with these things. For example:
Drink water – While it may seem obvious, many sometimes forget to get enough water throughout the day. It is important to not wait until you're thirsty to drink but instead keep your fluid intake up throughout the day.
Avoid using the stove or oven – Cooking during the summer can be problematic as using your stove or oven will essentially act as a heater and cause your home or residence to get hotter.
Dress accordingly – It is recommended that you wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing. Breezy clothing will help you stay cool and avoid the sun's rays.
Take showers and baths – If you are feeling overheated or hot, you can always take a cool shower or bath to lower your body temperature and make you feel rejuvenated.
Avoid strenuous activity – Try not to do anything to physically demanding, especially if these activities are outside in the sun. Things like gardening or outdoor sports can all wait for a cooler day.
There are many other ways to stay cool during a hot day or in the summer months, but following a few of these tips can help you avoid running into heat-related problems like exhaustion or heat stroke.
About the Author:
Matthew Boyle, COO at Landmark Senior Living
Matthew Boyle is the Chief Operating Officer at Landmark Senior Living, a senior living community that features assisted living facilities in New Mexico. He has been working in the healthcare space for seven years and graduated from Duke University in 2011 Summa Cum Laude. Guided by a relentless pursuit of excellence, Matthew and the team at Landmark are dedicated to creating a supportive environment for the elderly.