We relax more. We have fun. We play harder. We spend more time outside.
And while we may be prepared for it, your elderly parents may not be. In fact, spending time outside can be a dangerous situation if you aren’t prepared. Before you step outside on your next adventure, take a few precautions to stay well prepared.
Dehydration is one of the biggest obstacles impacting seniors in the summer months, especially here in Colorado. Seniors are more susceptible to dehydration than younger people because age decreases the ability to conserve water. They also become less aware of thirst, and may experience difficulty in adjusting to temperature changes. If you’ll be outside for any length of time, pack a few extra water bottles and consume them throughout your day. Also provide replacement products, especially water containing salt and potassium additives to ensure the person you are caring for stays healthy throughout the day.
Air conditioning and staying cool is increasingly important to people as they age. And while many homes across the Front Range have been fitted with air conditioners, be especially aware if your loved one’s home has not. Extreme heat doesn’t last long here; consider outings to shopping malls, movie theaters, even libraries can provide a welcome relief. It’s also a great way to have a change of scenery and keep you elderly parent active and a part of the community. Seniors are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of the heat as their bodies don’t adjust to sudden changes in temperature. Some chronic medical conditions and prescription medications can also impair the body’s ability to adjust to rising temperatures.
If your elderly parents live alone, it’s a good idea to connect with them every day. Communication plays a big role in keeping a senior safe. Especially if they will be spending time outdoors, check in to ensure their health and welfare is stable, especially after spending time in the sun. Do they have mobile devices? Are they connected with mobile alert? The key is to give your parents the tools they need to stay as active as possible.
Change What They Wear
Staying safe means dressing for the weather. And here in Colorado, that means dressing in layers. Natural, breathing fabrics such as cotton is cooler than synthetic fibers. Light clothing is more adaptable to warm weather than dark. A jacket and a hat are almost always necessary to stay comfortable in our quick changing weather. And don’t forget the sunglasses; vision loss is common among the elderly, and too much sunlight exposure can irritate eyes and cause further damage.
No matter how long you and your loved one are outside, there is a risk of hyperthermia. Hyperthermia is an abnormally high body temperature. Heat stroke is an advanced form of hyperthermia that can be life threatening. Warning signs include:
- Body temperature greater than 104 degrees
- A change in behavior, such as acting confused, tired or agitated
- Dry flushed skin
- Rapid pulse
- Not sweating even in extreme heat
If you or your elderly parent begins feeling any of these symptoms, seek medical assistance right away.