As everyone looks forward to the arrival of summer and reconnecting with family and friends, it is important to take a moment to focus on summer safety. The summer months are full of fun, family, and relaxation, but they can also be times of increased concern for older adults and caregivers.
With age comes various physical changes to the body. One of the most notable is how the body reacts to heat, humidity, and the sun’s rays. A study conducted by Duke University indicated more than eighty percent of heat-related deaths occur in people over the age of sixty. Age-related changes such as changes in circulation, increased sensitivity to dehydration, and increased incidence of chronic health conditions increases our senior loved one’s risk of heat-related illness.
Below are some things you can do to help your loved ones stay healthy and enjoy the summer weather.
Dress for the Weather
As we age, the fatty layer under the skin thins, which leads to increased sensitivity to dehydration when spending time in the sun. Although the fatty layer won’t “grow back,” there are ways you can help keep your loved one dressed for summer safety.
First, dress in light, loose-fitting layers. This will help them feel cooler and more comfortable while allowing the ability to remove layers if needed. Also, encourage the use of sunglasses and hats with brims or bills to protect the skin around the eyes.
Remember: Sunblock is a Vital Summer Tool
Use a broad-spectrum sunblock that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. It is important to cover every exposed area with sunblock, including spots that are usually overlooked, such as the tops of the feet, backs of the ears, forehead, and the upper lip. Choose a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF, although higher is recommended.
Stay Hydrated in the Summer Heat
People of all ages often fail to recognize thirst until it is too late. Seniors are significantly more prone to dehydration because they do not sweat or notice feelings related to thirst in the same way. Also, many seniors take diuretics or “water pills” to treat chronic health conditions, including high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, or kidney disease. These contribute to water loss and increased risk of dehydration.
In most cases, drinking plenty of water before heading outside and throughout the day is sufficient to stay hydrated. However, if excessive sweating or diarrhea is of concern, using a sports drink such as Pedialyte or Gatorade is often more beneficial.
If It’s Too Hot, Stay Inside
Being outside is great for many reasons. Spending time in the fresh air and sunshine can improve mood and increase activity. For older adults who may have experienced isolation during the pandemic, it is a great way to spend time with family and friends safely. However, if it is excessively hot or humid, it is a good idea to limit outdoor time during the times when the sun is the hottest. This is between 10 am and 4 pm.
Know the Warning Signs of Heat-Related Illness
During the warmer, more humid months of summer, caregivers need to be familiar with the warning signs of heat-related illness or hyperthermia. Some of the most common signs include dizziness, intense thirst, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, excessive sweating, cramps (stomach, leg, or arms), and cool or clammy skin.
Dehydration and a dramatic rise in body temperature can lead to severe hyperthermia or heat stroke, which can be fatal if not treated quickly and appropriately. Symptoms of heatstroke include intense headache, fainting, elevated body temperature (above 103 degrees), absence of sweating, confusion, lethargy, and red, hot, or dry skin.
During the summer, seniors and their loved ones look forward to traveling and spending time together. Taking the time to stay in touch with your senior loved ones when they are not with you and helping them stay safe during the warmer weather can help seniors enjoy all that summer offers while remaining healthy and safe.
Seniors Can Stay Active Indoors and Outdoors During the Summer
For older adults who are particularly sensitive to the sun or heat, there are plenty of ways to stay active indoors while still enjoying the beauty of summer. The Inn at Belden Village offers a variety of different activities to our residents, and our outdoor courtyard is full of flowers and a water feature to enjoy.
If you would like to learn more about how the staff here are keeping our residents safe during the summer, or you’re interested in the activities and amenities we have to offer, contact The Inn at Belden Village today! We’d be happy to give you a free tour of our facility.