Keeping Your Senior Loved One Safe in the Summer

Most of us spend the year looking forward to summer. Warm temperatures, long days and summer vacations – there’s a lot like about the sunny season. But summer can pose some unique challenges if you’re caring for an elderly loved one. Be aware of potential summer hazards and consider whether planning with a professional caregiver could help your senior have a summer that’s as fun and relaxing as it is for the rest of the family.

Summer’s Elements and the Elderly

Older adults don’t adjust as well to changes in temperature as young people, so they’re more adversely affected by high temperatures. High temperatures in the summer can be just as deadly as low temperatures in winter – 658 Americans die from heat-related illness each year and almost 40 percent are over 65 years old. Chronic medical conditions change the body’s response to heat and often prescription medications may or affect the body’s ability to control its temperature.

It’s essential to ensure that your loved one is aware of heat-related dangers and the measures that the CDC recommends to mitigate them:

Summer is a seasonal invitation to spend time outside, which does have benefits; however, there are factors to consider if your loved one wants to pass the time outdoors. Before we get there, let’s start with a potential problem inside:

Keeping Cool Indoors

Lack of air conditioning at home can be deadly when temperatures get very high. Consult your local Area Agency on Aging because they may offer programs that help seniors by providing air conditioners or fans They may also know of air-conditioned shelters in your area in case of an air conditioner breakdown during dangerously high temperatures.

The CDC recommends that you visit those in your care at least twice a day, so consider whether you can manage this increase in visits yourself, or if you could benefit from a dedicated professional caregiver who can tend to your loved one.

Knowing what to expect during the hot summer months can help mitigate the risk of the unexpected.

Sun Exposure

Sunburn is a painful experience and it will most likely take seniors' skin longer to heal than a younger person. They should avoid being in the sun at its peak, between 10 am and 3 pm, and using high-SPF sunscreen is essential. Remind them to protect themselves from the sun when you see them, and consider professional assistance if you know your senior loved one likes to garden, go on walks, or do other activities outside.

Insects

Biting insects pass on disease and are most prevalent during summer months, especially mosquitos. Diseases like West Nile Virus (WNV), Zika and others pose a more significant threat to the elderly due to their weaker immune systems. Make sure your loved one is protected by repellant or ask the caregiver to remind your loved one during visits.

Falls

It’s great that your senior wants to spend time outdoors but remember that falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in the elderly . Around 45 percent of falls happen outside the home. Uneven sidewalks, high curbs and other obstructions can put your senior at risk. Read our article on preventing falls and consider professional assistance to fall-proof your senior loved one’s home.

Overexertion

Nobody knows what your senior is capable of better than you, just remember that activity will take more out of him or her during hotter weather. Your mother may garden for an hour a day normally, but with high temperatures, she’ll need to work in shorter bursts and rest more. Heat exhaustion can be deadly and a professional caregiver should know the signs to look out for such as dizziness, light-headedness and confusion, as well as headaches, profuse sweating and nausea.

If you suspect heat exhaustion, take your senior straight to the emergency room. Trained professionals can spot the signs quickly.

Vacations

You can’t be with your loved one all the time, and you shouldn't feel guilty about getting a break. With many holidays happening over the summer, it may be that you have other commitments that can't be ignored. Maybe you booked a vacation and then your loved one's health deteriorated, or perhaps you need some time away. Whatever the reason you're traveling, as someone tasked with caring for a senior loved one, you know you’ll need to plan for your absence. Arranging for a professional caregiver to visit can make sure that your loved one is in great hands when you are away, whether he or she needs company or a little more help. Not only will this ensure your senior has a fun summer, but it will also give you the peace of mind you need to enjoy your vacation and recharge your batteries.

Thinking about taking your loved one with you on vacation? Click here for a useful read on how to make traveling with your senior an easier proposition.

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