By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions
As we move into the summer months of June, July, and August, a word of caution. Too much heat, especially when accompanied by high humidity, should be a concern to all of us, particularly older adults.
The U. S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites three reasons why older adults are at a much higher risk for heat-related illness or injury.
#1 Their bodies do not adjust well to sudden changes in temperature.
#2 They may have a chronic medical condition that changes their body’s response to heat.
#3 They may be taking prescription medications that impair their body’s ability to regulate its temperature or inhibit their ability to perspire.
Young children and individuals who are sick or overweight are also among those most at risk.
The National Institute on Aging advises that too much heat can cause several illness that are grouped under the name hyperthermia. The illnesses can include heat syncope, heat edema, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. For more information on these illnesses and hot weather safety for older adults, go to https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hot-weather-safety-older-adults
Tips for Lowering Your Risk and Coping with the Heat
▪ Drink plenty of liquids such as water or fruit or vegetable juice. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink. (Be sure to check with your doctor if your doctor has limited the amount of fluid you drink or if you are taking water pills.)
▪ Avoid heavy meals and alcohol. Limit the amount of caffeinated beverages such as tea and coffee that you drink.
▪ Keep the sunscreen handy and use it. As you age, your skin becomes more sensitive to the sun. Choose a sunscreen that offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. It should be a broadband UV spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB light. Be sure to apply generously.
▪ Shield your skin and eyes from the harmful rays of the sun. Wear sunglasses.
▪ Dress for the weather. Wear loose, light weight and light-colored clothing.
▪ Take cool baths or showers. Sponge baths, ice bags and wet towels also can be helpful.
▪ Install air conditioning or large fans to keep the air moving. Check air conditioning ducts for proper insulation. Weather-strip your doors and window sills to keep cool air inside.
▪ Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades or awnings. Install temporary window reflectors such as aluminum foiled-covered cardboard to reflect heat back outside.
▪ Visit places that have air-conditioning, especially during the hottest part of the day, such as senior centers, libraries, movie theatres, restaurants, and shopping malls.
▪ Know the signs of hyperthermia and heat stroke, Seek medical help immediately if you think that you or someone else have the signs of a heat-related illness.
Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
During the summer, when temperatures are high, the CDC encourages us to visit at-risk older adults at least twice a day and look for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion can include heavy sweating, rapid breathing, and a pulse that is fast and weak. To help overcome heat exhaustion, drink cool non-alcoholic beverages; rest; take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath; seek an air-conditioned environment; and wear light-weight clothing.
Heat stroke is a life-threatening illness in which a person’s body temperature can rise above 106 degrees in minutes. Symptoms can include red, hot and dry skin; no sweating; a rapid and strong pulse; throbbing headaches; dizziness; nausea; confusion; and unconsciousness. Immediately call for medical help. Until medical help arrives, get the person to a shady area and cool the victim using whatever methods you can such as a cool tub of water; a cool shower; cool water from a garden hose; or a cool sponge bath.
The Benefits of Assisted Living
One of the included amenities that takes on so much added importance at the assisted living and memory care communities Gardant operates when heat advisories and warnings are in effect is air conditioning. The apartments are air conditioned and the cost of utilities such as air conditioning is included in the monthly fee.
In addition, in our assisted living and memory care communities, certified nursing assistants are on-duty 24-hours a day, seven days a week. They work under the direction of a licensed nurse. Conducting a daily wellness check on each resident is just one of their responsibilities.
An emergency alert system comes standard in each of the assisted living apartments, and three daily meals served restaurant-style are among the included services. Snacks and beverages are available whenever the dining room is not open.