Help Seniors Beat the Heat

With increasing summer temperatures, helping seniors beat the heat is critical. Heat can be deadly to seniors, in fact, nearly 400 Americans die from heat waves each year and most of them are elderly people. When in heated conditions, people often do not realize when they are overheating and in danger. Older people can’t handle the heat as well as younger ones because they don’t sweat as effectively and have poorer circulation. Obesity, heart disease, dementia, diabetes and other chronic medical conditions can compound the risk. Also, certain medications – especially diuretics – or those prescribed for hypertension and Parkinson’s disease increase the risk. Part of the problem is that seniors with poor circulation feel too cold in air conditioning and they often reach for a sweater. Hydration is a most serious issue in beating the heat. Other than drinking water, some seniors prefer sugary drinks or those with caffeine, which can lead to dehydration. Seniors typically aren’t well-hydrated, and age-related changes to the skin and circulation affect sweat gland function, compounding the heat issue.

Tips on protecting elderly people are: offering plenty of drinks, keeping frozen treats available, leading them towards air conditioned spaces for even two or three hours a day, having them use fans, closing curtains or blinds and leading them to shady spots. To beat the heat, taking it easy and wearing appropriate clothing are other helpful remedies.

Knowing the warning signs of heat-related illness will help avoid potential problems. They include:  dizziness, nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, high body temperature (above 103 degrees), red, hot and dry skin with no sweating, rapid/strong pulse, fainting and breathing problems. These warning signs indicate that help should be sought immediately. Lastly, watch the heat index to keep an elderly person safe and comfortable. Scientists have developed the heat index, a formula combining temperature and humidity levels, to measure how hot the body feels. Heat can put strain on the body so watching and adjusting to the heat index is another way in helping the elderly beat the heat.

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