Seniors: Beat the Heat!

People aged 65 or older are more susceptible to heat stress and dehydration. Not only do older bodies have a harder time adjusting to extreme temperature changes, but also older people are more likely to be taking medications that can affect the body’s ability to cool itself.

Prevention

Even mild dehydration can drain your energy, affect your ability to concentrate, and leave you feeling tired. You can follow these tips to prevent dehydration and heat stress:

  1. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. By the time you become noticeably thirsty, you may already be slightly dehydrated. Instead, follow the “8×8” rule: 8 ounces of water, 8 times a day.
  2. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol actually removes fluids from your body’s tissues, leaving you even more dehydrated.
  3. Rest. Engaging in strenuous activities that cause you to perspire will deplete your body’s fluids.
  4. Take a cool shower or bath. Hot water softens the oils of the skin and strips them away, allowing moisture to escape.
  5. Wear lightweight, breathable clothing. Materials like polyester can trap heat and increase perspiration. And clothes that are physically heavy require you to expend more energy just getting around.
  6. Stay inside. If your own home is not air-conditioned, consider visiting the mall or the library during the hottest part of the day.

Protection

Check in with your elderly neighbors or parents to make sure they are following the guidelines listed above. Enjoy a glass of lemonade with them! Offer to drive them to an air-conditioned location if necessary. Protect them from heat stroke or heat exhaustion by paying attention to these signals:

  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Fast, shallow breathing
  • Cool, moist, pale skin
  • Heavy sweating

Treatment

If you recognize the above signs of heat-related illness, it will be important to act quickly. Take the following steps to help:

  • Call 9-1-1.
  • Help the person to an area where he or she can lie down. The floor might be cooler than an overstuffed couch or chair.
  • Soak a sheet or handkerchief in cool water and place it over the person. A towel can be used too, but it should be changed more frequently as it will absorb heat.
  • Monitor the person’s body temperature until it drops to 102 degrees.

Enjoyment

Staff at Providence Life Services communities provide “Infused H2O” to help residents enjoy drinking 8 glasses of water each day. Sliced fruit — including orange, lemon, lime, watermelon, cantaloupe, mango, mixed berries, cucumber, and pineapple — can be added to water for a splash of color and flavor!

Whether you “choose to infuse” or not, make sure you stay hydrated this summer. Help others stay hydrated too — forward them this article, or print it and bring it along on your next visit.

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Comments

  1. Rob McClenahan

    Thank you for the resourceful information contained in this article. The protection of elder citizens is important in each locality. Traditionally, every summer has warm temperatures, but the heat indexes are higher this summer. One takeaway to remember are warmer temperatures posing greater health risks to elders because of medical conditions that occur with advanced age.

    Reply

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