One of the benefits of living in beautiful Orange County is that almost every day feels like summer. However, weather researchers say that this summer is shaping up to be particularly hot and dry in Southern California.
Most healthy adults will be able to adapt to the heat with little trouble. But for seniors or those with chronic health conditions, beating the heat could take a bit more planning.
Check out these summer health tips for seniors and find out how you can help your senior parent enjoy the hot weather while staying safe and healthy.
How does summer weather affect seniors?
Seniors over the age of 65 are more likely to experience heat-related problems. There are a few reasons for this. These include the fact that seniors:
Don’t adjust as quickly as younger people to sudden changes in temperature
Are more likely to have chronic medical conditions that affect how their bodies respond to hot weather
Are more likely to take medications that affect how their bodies regulate their temperature and sweat
Together, these mean that seniors experience heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and heat syncope (fainting) at greater rates than people of other ages.
Seniors are also more likely to end up in the hospital from complications of their chronic medical conditions during a heat wave.
Summer health tips for seniors
These summer health tips for seniors can help you keep your parent healthy and safe while enjoying the season.
Encourage your parent to drink plenty of water, clear juices, or sports drinks that don’t contain alcohol or caffeine. Fresh fruits and vegetables also contain water to keep your parent hydrated.
Watch for warning signs of dehydration such as a headache, weakness, cramps, or confusion. If your parent has a medical condition where they need to watch their fluid intake or take diuretics (water pills), be sure to check in with their healthcare provider for recommendations.
The safest way for seniors to avoid the effects of heat is to stay in a cool environment. On sweltering days, seniors should limit their time outside and keep to an air-conditioned environment.
If your parent’s home doesn’t have air conditioning, other options to stay cool include:
Use an electric fan
Visiting a senior or community center
Spend time at a shopping mall or library
Open windows at opposite ends of the home to encourage a breeze
Practice sun safety
Sun safety is important at any age, but as we age, our skin becomes thinner and more susceptible to UV light. As a result, your senior parent could experience a significant sunburn if they aren’t careful.
Seniors should apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF to all exposed skin before going outside, even on cloudy days. Sunscreen should be reapplied every few hours or after going in the water.
Avoid strenuous activities
Common hobbies such as gardening, walking, or golfing are great ways for your parent to stay active, but they also involve a lot of time out in the sun.
To minimize the risk of overheating, encourage your parent to avoid outdoor activities when the sun is at its peak. This is usually between 10 am and 4 pm.
If they need to go outside during this time, keep plans short and bring extra water.
Stick to light clothing
Help your parent choose a summer wardrobe that will keep them cool and comfortable. Loose clothing with light-colored natural fibers such as cotton is the best for summer. These clothes are more lightweight and breathable than synthetic fibers such as nylon or polyester.
Long sleeves and pants can help provide protection from the sun, but be careful that your parent doesn’t overheat. A hat with a wide brim can also help protect your parent’s face and neck.
Know the danger signs of heatstroke
Heatstroke is a dangerous rise in body temperature that can happen gradually over the course of a hot day. It can be deadly for older adults.
That’s why it’s important to know the signs of heatstroke and get your parent help right away. Warning signs include:
A temperature of 104 degrees or higher
Red, hot, dry skin
A fast heart rate
Nausea or vomiting
Feeling very tired or confused
If your senior parent experiences any of these symptoms, call 911. Then move your parent to a cool area, loosen any heavy clothes, and get them a cool drink while waiting for help to arrive.
Protect your parent’s eyes
When you think of a day out in the sun, almost everyone worries about their skin burning. However, people often forget that UV rays from the sun can damage your eyes as well.
Sun exposure can irritate your senior parent’s eyes and worsen eye diseases such as cataracts. Wearing UV-blocking sunglasses or a wide-brimmed hat while outside can help safeguard their eyes and preserve vision.
Review your parent’s medications
Many seniors take medications on a daily basis. Some of these can cause the skin to be more sensitive to the sun (photosensitivity). Assist your parent in reviewing their medications with their doctor or pharmacist to see if they should be taking extra sun precautions.
Also, many medications degrade when stored at temperatures over 86 degrees. This makes them less effective. If your parent doesn’t have air conditioning in their home, talk to a pharmacist about how to store medications safely in the summer.
Prevent summer falls
When you think of seasonal falls, you probably picture winter ice and snow. Something you don’t really need to worry about in California. But in the summer, seniors may spend more time outside on uneven terrain. This can put them at increased risk for falls.
Outdoor rugs, uneven patio pavers, slippery pool decks, or sandy beaches can all cause your senior parent to lose their balance, leading to a fall.
Keep your parent safe by:
Keeping their assistive devices (eyeglasses, hearing aids, walkers, etc.) up to date and working
Summer is often a time for taking vacations and visiting friends and family. Due to advanced age and decreased mobility, seniors might be more at risk for a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or a blood clot in the leg when they travel.
Sitting in one place for an extended period, such as during a long car ride or plane trip, can cause blood clots. You can help your parent prevent this by
Making frequent pit stops to stretch and walk around outside of the car
Booking an aisle seat so it’s easier to get up and walk around
Reminding them to flex and stretch calf muscles while sitting
Keeping your parent healthy year-round
Parentis Health is committed to helping you keep your senior parent happy and healthy. In addition to summer health tips for seniors, we also offer services to promote your parent’s health in every season of their life.
Contact us today, and let’s talk about how we can support your parent.