As we enter summer in Australia, we’re all looking forward to some time in the sunshine at the beach or the pool. Temperatures are rising, and while we all want to make the most of the warmer weather, it’s important for older adults to take care of themselves and stay cool.
Older adults over the age of 65 are most at risk when temperatures soar. High temperatures can increase an older person’s risk of becoming unwell and can even impact the effectiveness of certain medications.
Why Does Heat Impact the Elderly?
There are a number of reasons why older adults are more vulnerable to heat:
- As we age, our ability to recognise changes in body temperature decreases
- Seniors often have to take medications for health conditions. Some of these can contribute to dehydration.
- Sometimes older adults do not feel the urge to drink, which can also lead to dehydration.
- A number of older adults live with underlying health conditions that can affect their body’s ability to adapt to heat
How to Keep Safe in the Summer Heat
Being prepared is key to keeping safe in summer. The following are some of the most effective ways to prevent heat strokes, heat exhaustion, and sunburns for older adults.
1. Wear Sun-appropriate Clothing
When it’s warm outside, it’s important to consider clothing carefully. This may not seem important, but what you wear can make a huge difference to your health when it’s warm outside. Clothing and accessories can keep you cool and prevent heat exhaustion and sunburn. The following are the most sun-appropriate clothing and accessories:
- Light coloured clothing
- Loose-fitting clothing
- Clothing made from lightweight fabrics
- Hats, sunglasses and umbrellas
2. Stay Indoors During the Warmest Parts of the Day
During the summer when days are extremely hot, it’s best to stay indoors as much as possible. Try to spend time outdoors when it is cooler, typically before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. In addition, there are steps you can take to make sure your home stays cool in extreme heat:
- Ensure windows and blinds are closed throughout the day
- Sleep in the coolest room in the house
- Don’t use artificial lighting or electronics
- If you are starting to feel too warm, take a cool bath or shower to cool down
3. Drink Lots of Liquids to Avoid Dehydration
Dehydration can cause a number of heat-related health problems in seniors as it strips the body of important salts and minerals. For older adults, dehydration can cause dizziness, fatigue, headaches, and other health issues. In extreme cases, an older adult suffering from long-term dehydration may end up in hospital.
The following are the best drinks for seniors to use for hydration:
- 100% fruit juice, such as pure orange or apple juice
- Sports drinks that are high in electrolytes
Older adults should also avoid drinks that lead to dehydration, such as alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
4. Eat Foods that Are Healthy and Hydrating
As well as drinking plenty of liquids, eating the right foods is also important for keeping the body nourished and hydrated. Fruits and vegetables are ideal for snacking or including as part of a meal. They can also be cut up and added to water or whizzed into a smoothie for a refreshing drink.
The following are the best fruits and vegetables for boosting vitamin and water intake, according to the Hydration Foundation:
5. Take it Easy in the Heat
When we are exposed to extreme sunshine, our body has to work harder to keep cool. Our heart rate and metabolic rate also increases in the heat, which is why it’s common to feel tired when sitting outside in the sun. As such, it’s important for older adults to take it easy in the summer to improve health and energy levels. The following should be avoided in warmer weather:
- Outdoor exercise
- Outdoor chores
- Overly strenuous activities
How to Care for an Older Adult in Summer
If you are caring for an older relative or loved one, it’s important to be aware of the dangers of hot weather. The following are some considerations to keep in mind during the warmer months.
- Ensure you frequently call and visit to check in on them
- Regularly check that they are drinking enough water and staying hydrated
- Stock their cupboards with their favourite beverages and hydrating fruits and vegetables
- Monitor how much time they are spending outside
- Encourage them to use hats, sunscreen and sunglasses when outdoors
- Ensure they have air-conditioning or fans in their home
Ensure you are staying cool this summer and looking after yourself and your loved ones. For more information on this article, or the other services that we provide, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Brain Sparks.