The mid-summer holiday – Independence Day – may be behind us, but the heat of the summer is upon us. If you have an older loved one in your orbit, you need to be aware that summer is more than just about sun screen among older adults. Their biologic thermostats do not work as efficiently as a younger person’s and that can mean real medical consequences from overheating. And if they have any medical conditions like hypertension, etc., it is even more important to protect them from the heat. First, be aware of the signs of overheating; it is more than the obvious thirst that all can feel. The signs can include sudden dizziness, nausea, headache, cramping, swelling in the ankles, lack of coordination or coherence and unusually cool or even clammy skin.
Encourage your older loved one to follow some simple rules during the heat of the day … or the heat of the night when even sunset brings relief from the rays of the summer sun but not the residual heat.
- Avoid strenuous exercise midday to early evening. The added ten to twenty degrees that midday adds to the early morning can make a critical, deleterious difference. Encourage that daily walk during the morning or post-dinner hours.
- Drink plenty of fluids. The old rule of thumb has been eight glasses (eight ounce capacity) of water daily. Beware that drinking caffeinated beverages or liquor do not count as substitutes as they are diuretics and will actually remove fluid from the system.
- Shade helps. In the early or later parts of the day, the sun gives more shade as well as less direct heat. And when they have a choice, encourage your older loved one to walk on the shady side of a street. There will be a ten to twenty degree difference.
- Apply and reapply sunscreen. People can forget that sunscreen tends to “wear off.” Read the label for recommended intervals for reapplying sunscreen to avoid the harmful accumulation of rays to the skin. Sunscreen may not make a person cooler, but it will guard against the rays that can result in melanoma.
- Light colored clothes can make a difference in exposure to harmful UV rays and in body temperature. Ever notice that tropical clothing tends toward the lighter side of the spectrum? There is a good reason; it helps protect the body from the sun’s assault.
So, as we all enjoy the summer blooms and even a day at the beach, help protect your older loved ones…and yourself. And have a tall, cool drink of water for good measure.
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Professional and a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.