Care for Older People: 9 Tips to Fight the Heat

affordable home care services for seniors companion care for older people at home caregivers home help for the elderly home assistance taking care of elderly parents assisted home careWall Drug isn’t the only home to free ice water.  Last week, I was in a large senior high-rise and the management had posted signs saying, “Free Ice Water in Lobby.”  When the heat and humidity move in, those in the senior care industry know the dangers of summer.


Older adults and the elderly are at a higher risk for heat-related problems such as dehydration and heat stroke when the weather is excessively humid and hot.  In fact, dehydration is one of the most frequent causes of hospitalization for people over age 65.  There are several reasons for this:

1.  Seniors are less likely to feel thirsty even when they are already dehydrated.

2.  They may have reduced appetites, which means they are drinking less with meals.

3.  Because of health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases common to older adults, it is more difficult for their bodies to cope with high heat and humidity.

4. Side effects for some medications, such as for allergies, diabetes, depression, and high blood pressure, as well as water pills, pose a higher risk for dehydration.

5.  Elderly people often feel cold and may wear too much clothing in hot weather.

6.  Their bodies simply do not cool down as well as those of younger adults.

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By the time a person feels thirsty, it is very likely the body is already dehydrated.  The other most common signs and symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, lethargy, muscle weakness or cramps, headaches, dizziness, nausea, forgetfulness, confusion, deep rapid breathing, or increased heart rate.  Other less common signs can include loss of fluids by vomiting, diarrhea, urination, or sweating; poor intake of fluids; the feeling of not being able to “keep anything down”; sunken eyes; skin that lacks its normal elasticity and sags back into position slowly when pinched up into a fold; decreased or absent urine output (or urine that is very dark in color and has a foul odor); and decreased tears.

Symptoms such as the above, present for 2-3 days, require immediate medical attention.  Dehydration can cause severe problems and even death.

Tips To Beat Heat and Dehydration

As we enter the peak of summer sun, here are some tips for combating the heat when taking care of elderly parents:

1.  If outdoors, wear wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

2.  Avoid outdoor activities during the peak sun time—11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

3.  Stay in the shade and provide frequent fluids.

4.  Drink fluids frequently—have a pitcher nearby and sip on water all day long!  Try popsicles for a change—these are available with or without sugar.

5.  Run a fan—air circulation reduces heat.

6.  Air conditioning just 2-3 hours per day can reduce apartment temperatures enough to prevent problems.  Federal regulations recommend that a temperature range of 71-81 degrees is best for avoiding heat-related problems.

7.  Reduce consumption of caffeinated and alcoholic beverages.

8.  Wear light cotton clothing.

9.  Get water into your body by eating raw foods that have a high water content, such as apples, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, cauliflower, celery, grapefruit, carrots, nectarines,  lettuce, and cucumbers—to name a few.

Julie Ellingson, LSW

July 2, 2012






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