smiling elderly man outside

It’s that time of year when we move outdoors to enjoy the sun and warmer temperatures. As the mercury rises, so does the risk of heat related illness and injury, and the elderly are especially susceptible during this time of year. Here are a few great tips to help seniors and their caretakers have a safe and enjoyable summer.

1. Stay hydrated

Dehydration can happen without feeling thirsty. Encourage your loved one to drink plenty of fluids, and avoid consuming alcohol and caffeinated beverages, both of which lead to dehydration. Sipping often throughout the day encourages proper hydration more effectively than does gulping large amounts of fluids, which may overload the cardiovascular system.

2. Become familiar with medication side effects

Some medications accelerate dehydration while others cause sun sensitivity. Talk to your physician or pharmacist to learn more about your medications. Take necessary precautions such as adding sports drinks to daily fluid intake, and applying plenty of sunscreen before venturing outdoors. Do not leave medications inside a car on a hot day, as chemical changes may occur, making the medication ineffective or toxic.

3. Dress for the weather

Light colored, loose-fitting clothing is most comfortable during the hot months of summer. Cotton and linen are natural fabrics that breathe and whisk away moisture. Proper footwear protects the toes and feet from injury. A hat or scarf will protect from sunburn, and sunglasses help prevent eye irritation and premature vision loss.

4. Avoid the extreme heat of the day and be smart about outdoor activities

Choose to be active outdoors in the early morning or evening hours, and enjoy mid-day activities indoors. When outdoors, keep track of time and take frequent breaks to rest and rehydrate. If a senior’s home is not air conditioned, offer to take him or her to the mall or library where cooler temperatures may be enjoyed. Lunching in a restaurant or taking in a movie are great ways to enjoy staying cool while sharing quality time with your loved one.

5. Stay connected

Caregivers should check in on loved ones at least twice a day. Seniors can be encouraged to tell friends and family when planning to go outdoors, even if only for a short period of time. Place phone numbers for caregivers and local emergency services in an accessible and familiar place in the home.

6. Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and the proper treatment for each condition

Heat exhaustion is non-life-threatening. The symptoms include headache, thirst, fatigue, mild increase in body temperature, nausea and vomiting, low blood pressure, profuse sweating, and a weak, rapid pulse. If you notice these symptoms, it is important to get your loved one cooled down as quickly as possible. Encourage rest in a cool, dark environment and apply cool water or ice wrapped in a towel to the skin. Cool water or sports drinks may be offered to help replace lost fluids and electrolytes. Heat stroke is life threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Red, hot, dry skin is the hallmark sign of heat stroke and signals the body’s inability to sweat. Do not hesitate to transport your loved one to a medical facility if you notice symptoms such as agitation, confusion, fatigue, seizures, hallucinations, loss of consciousness, body temperature greater than 103 degrees, and hot, dry skin. These symptoms may lead to death if not treated immediately.

Summertime is a great season to be active and savor spending time with friends and family. Follow these safety tips to protect yourself and your loved ones, and be sure to enjoy all of the time you spend with your loved ones this summer.

vickiheadshot-[500x500]]Vicki Eckersel is a Bachelor’s prepared RN who believes that the power of patient-centered education has the ability to promote healing and well being. Her love of nursing runs deep over the past 20 years, through nearly every area of health care, including management. While her favorite hobby is being a mother, she often says that being an RN is a close second. Fortunately, the two blend well in a crazy home filled with nine wonderful people and one lovable dog. She hopes one day to combine her love of nursing with travel to serve those in need in foreign lands.