(August 1, 2013) – With 10 states reporting record high temperatures this summer, the National Weather Service warns hot temps and high humidity will continue to create dangerous conditions that can cause heat illnesses – especially for the elderly. Even if temps drop a bit in our area, experts warn the elderly often do not take proper precautions to stay cool and hydrated.
• 40 percent of heat related deaths are among people over the age of 65.
• A study out of Kent State University shows most respondents over age 65 thought the heat
warnings for seniors did not apply to them and were targeted to “older Americans.”
That’s why Visiting Angels, one of the nation’s largest in-home senior care
companies with an office in our area advises families to protect their aging relatives by assembling Senior Summer Safety Kits. These kits include vital, yet inexpensive tools to make sure elderly loved ones have the protection they need to stay safe during hot summer days – especially when family members are not around.
“Seniors often don’t realize their bodies can’t handle heat like they used to, so they fail to take extra precautions. That’s why it’s so important to have resources available right within reach,” says Visiting Angels CEO Larry Meigs. “Heat can take a toll on seniors because their body water content decreases and medications can dehydrate them. Take the time to prepare a Senior Summer Safety Kit. If you can’t be with your elderly loved one, hire a caregiver to make sure your senior hydrates, applies sunscreen and stays active and engaged indoors.”
What’s in the ‘Senior Summer Safety Kit?’
• Reusable water bottle to maintain hydration
• Copies of all prescriptions and health insurance cards
• Phone numbers of health care providers and information concerning chronic health problems
• Broad spectrum sunscreen, at least SPF 30, to prevent serious burns
• Snap Towels that activate with water that have a cooling effect when applied to the skin
• Misting fans that require no electricity in case of a power outage
• An ID bracelet with personal information and emergency contact numbers
• A pre-paid cell phone for seniors to use in an emergency
How Visiting Angels “Summer Safety Caregivers” Help Seniors
Visiting Angels caregivers come to the home to help with chores like cooking or yard work which can be strenuous in the heat. They also make sure seniors take proper precautions to beat the heat.
Wear lightweight, loose fitting clothes – Caregivers help with laundry and can make sure seniors have enough clean, lightweight clothes to stay cool.
Drink up! – Caregivers remind seniors to drink water throughout the course of the day, even if they’re not particularly thirsty. (Eight 8-ounce glasses at least) . As adults continue to age, the amount of water retained by the body decreases substantially. Caregivers fill water bottles and keep coolers well stocked. They can even make “mock tails” - drinks the senior enjoys, like lemonade or fruit juice mixtures, which do not include caffeine or alcohol.
Stay cool – Caregivers close blinds and curtains keeping the house cool, even in triple digit temperatures. Caregivers also have battery operated/hand-held fans readily available to keep their seniors comfortable. Most seniors are budget-conscious, so it’s important for caregivers to be sure the AC is set to a proper, cool level and it’s working. Caregivers can also be responsible to check filters once a month .
Stay in air conditioning in the afternoon – The hottest part of the day is from 3-5 p.m. Caregivers provide inside activities like playing cards, going to movies, the mall or library to keep seniors active inside to avoid spending time outside during the hottest hours of the day.
Eat plenty, but eat light – Caregivers prepare light food because heavy foods, like meat and cheese, tend to make the body work harder to digest, using more water and generating more body heat .
Help with late sundown syndrome (periods of agitation in the evening for seniors with dementia) - Caregivers help by keeping seniors active in the day so they’re fatigued at night and go to sleep with no problem. Caregivers also keep seniors on steady nap and bedtime schedules so their bodies get used to the routine.
Follow new sunscreen guidelines – Caregivers are well versed on the FDA’s newly released guidelines about sun protection. Seniors are more prone to sunburn because their bodies have less water. Caregivers educate seniors on proper sun care, such as there’s no such thing as “sweat proof” or “water proof” sunscreen, and you must re-apply sunscreen every two hours for it to work effectively.
Copies of health care information – In case of emergency, caregivers have copies of seniors’ prescriptions, health insurance card, and phone numbers of health care providers.
Sources: University of Chicago Medical Center, National Weather Service. The Department of Health, The Hydration for Health Initiative, The Adult & Geriatric Institute, European Review of Aging and Physical Activity, and the Department on Aging
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care, Alzheimer's care
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