We love the sun, but we hate the heat! Being that it’s summer in NJ, we’ll be sure to see our share of heat waves. Exposure to extreme heat can result in heat-related illnesses, especially for seniors. Their bodies are less able to regulate their temperatures and cool themselves. When our bodies heat rapidly or when we lose fluids due to perspiration or dehydration, common conditions are cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. In some cases, hyperthermia (absorbing more heat than our bodies can handle) is fatal.
Warning signs of heat-related illnesses
Heat exhaustion is characterized as dehydration due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures. The main symptoms include muscle cramps, headache, dizziness, fatigue and confusion.
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related condition. Heat stroke is dehydration coupled with the body physically overheating and unable to bring down its own temperature. The most obvious sign is a body temperature of 104° or higher. Other symptoms include distorted mental state, flushed skin, nausea, vomiting, rapid breathing, and racing pulse.
NOTE: Did you know that certain chronic conditions and medications increase a senior’s risk of heat stroke? Consult with your senior loved one’s primary care physician about optimal fluid intake and medication management during periods of extreme heat. If they are in an assisted living environment, the nursing staff and caregivers onsite can also help.
How seniors can stay safe in the summer heat
These simple precautions can keep seniors safe during the hottest months of the year.
- Stay in the shade when possible
- Stay indoors during the hottest parts of the day, usually 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
- Wear protective clothing outdoors – hats, sunglasses, light-colored clothing
- Use sunscreen (SPF 30 with broad spectrum protection)
- Stay hydrated at all times – drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine and alcohol, which dehydrate the body. Don’t rely on feeling thirsty, just drink! Our bodies lose moisture even when we are not sweating heavily.
Tips for seniors to stay cool indoors
Even when indoors during very hot weather, it is important for seniors to stay hydrated, especially if the air conditioning is not working or if it’s kept at a moderate temperature to reduce energy consumption. Fans that circulate the air are somewhat helpful but don’t do enough to help cool down the body. If your senior loved one is out and about on a hot day, tell them to visit a local public place to access air conditioning like public libraries, senior centers, shopping malls, or movie theaters.
Additional indoor cooling tips during periods of extreme heat include:
- Cool drinks, such as water, iced herbal teas, and lemonade help moderate the body’s temperature and refresh.
- Wear lightweight layers you can add or take off as needed; cotton and other natural fibers are best because they breathe and won’t trap heat.
- Eat cool snacks such as frozen ice pops, grapes or berries.
- Choose light, cold meals over hot, heavy dishes. Think salads—grain or pasta, tuna, egg and tossed salad—over pot roast or lasagna.
- Place a cool washcloth on the back of your neck; keep a pan of cool water handy to re-cool the towel. Taking a cool shower or bath is also effective.
- Sit with your feet in a pan of cool (not cold) water.
Seniors stay cool at Lester Senior Living in NJ
If mom or dad is still living in their own home, you should call or check on them often during times of very hot (or cold) weather. It doesn’t take much to feel the effects of heat exhaustion and it may be difficult for them to call for help when they start to need it.
Of course, if mom or dad resides in a senior living community like Lester, they’ll have access to cool spaces, plenty of refreshing beverages, an emergency call system, and helpful staff members to lend assistance if needed. That’s just one reason why so many seniors choose independent or assisted living options at the Lester Senior Living community.
To learn more about independent living and assisted living in Morris or Essex County, NJ, contact us today or visit our website at: https://jchcorp.org