From Our Expert Panel on Aging

5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Heat Stroke in Older Adults

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Once the slick sidewalks and icy temperatures of winter melt away, many older adults are eager to head outdoors and enjoy extra time with their family and friends. But the warm breezes and sunny days of summer can be dangerous for those who aren’t able or prepared to handle the heat. That’s especially true for people over the age of 65.

Regulating body temperature gets more difficult as we age, in any weather. And many seniors have chronic health conditions or take medications that can make staying hydrated and healthy a real challenge as temperatures rise. The good news is, helping your aging parent or loved one enjoy the summer months safely is easy if you plan ahead. Here’s how:

  1. Stay Cool When You’re Indoors
    No air conditioning? A fan may not be enough to keep seniors safe and comfortable when the thermostat climbs. Consider heading to a climate-controlled public space like a library or mall; your community may even offer cooling shelters during periods of extreme heat. And don’t forget, many medications can’t withstand high temps, either. Make sure your loved one’s prescriptions are stored as directed.
  2. Gear Up for Cooling Down
    Help your elderly parent equip for warmer weather, inside their home and out of it. Make sure their closet has plenty of loose, lightweight and light-colored clothing options. Swap warm, winter-weight bedding for cooler sheets and blankets. And encourage them to carry a water bottle. Other things to keep on hand for seniors on the go: a handheld fan, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, cooling towel or shade umbrella, and ice packs.
  3. Be Active, Then Take a Break
    Everyone wants to enjoy a little fun in the sun. But for active seniors, summer fun means taking a few simple but important precautions. Plan on shorter, lighter activities; that vigorous, all-day outing can wait for milder weather. Steer clear of outdoor activities during the hottest part of the day. And remember, taking plenty of breaks to rest and rehydrate—or enjoying a cooling shower—can help seniors bounce back and keep going.
  4. Check In Often
    Checking in. It’s one of the easiest ways to help an aging parent prevent heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion and dehydration. To start, check the weather. Knowing the heat index, which measures both temperature and humidity, can prepare you for dangerous temps. Next, check in with your loved one at least twice on hot days over the phone, or in person if you’re able. Not living nearby? Ask a friend, neighbor or health care professional to pay them a visit.
  5. Know the Signs
    Underlying conditions can make it difficult for older adults to recognize their body’s changing temperatures. And sweat alone isn’t a reliable sign of distress. If you have an elderly parent or loved one, get to know the signs of heat-related illnesses like dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Symptoms like headache, dizziness, muscle cramps, nausea, a rapid pulse and fatigue could warn you when loved ones feel the effects of extreme heat.

 

Making sure the older adults in your life can safely enjoy all of the pleasures summer has to offer may take a little effort, but the memories you create together are worth it. For even more helpful tips and ideas, connect with a BrightStar Senior Living community near you today.

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5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Heat Stroke in Older Adults