By Laura Nencetti, Wesley Homes Director of Community Health Services
Summer is just around the corner, and is a great time for outdoor activities. However, this time of year is not without its health risks.
June is National Safety Month for Seniors, so here are a few tips from Homecare by Wesley that can help seniors and their families stay happy and healthy while having fun in the sun!
- Stay Hydrated
Sense of thirst can decrease as people age, but the need to stay hydrated does not. Water is essential in hot weather, especially for seniors, and helps to replenish lost fluids, regulate body temperature, lubricate joints and transport nutrients throughout the body.
- Watch for Symptoms of Overheating
Knowing the symptoms of overheating, or hyperthermia, is important in avoiding heat stroke and other heat related illness.
Symptoms of overheating can include dizziness, confusion, dry or flushed skin, nausea, headache and lack of sweat. If any of these symptoms occur, take immediate action to limit activity and rehydrate.
- Consult a Medical Professional
Heat decreases blood pressure, as do certain medications or salt-restricted diets. Because of the way heat can affect medications and the body, it’s a good idea to reach out to a doctor or pharmacist for advice. Ask what affect medications might have on people during the summer months. Are any changes necessary? Is there anything to observe? Also, keep in mind that most medications need to be stored in a cool environment, usually slightly lower than room temperature. Be sure to refer to the directions and warnings on medication labels.
- Take Precautions with Strenuous Activity
Summer is often an ideal time to get outside for exercise, especially in the Pacific Northwest, but overheating can cause people to lose energy and focus. This can increase the risk of falls. Regular exercise is still important, and actually helps reduce the risk of falling, so dress in light clothing, take frequent breaks, use a cane or walker and watch for symptoms of overheating.
- Protection from the Sun
Use sunscreen and a hat to protect skin from burning and sunglasses to help prevent vision degradation from harmful UV rays. Consider exercising in a large indoor space with air conditioning, like a shopping mall or fitness center.
- Check in with Friends and Family
Because heat can cause dizziness, dehydration and even loss of consciousness, it can be helpful to have a buddy system to check regularly in with friends and family, especially after walking on a hot day. At the very least, seniors should let someone know where they will be if they plan on being in the heat for an extended period of time.
- Check for Expired Food or Medications
While summer heat poses unique risks for seniors, there are some things to be mindful of all year round. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of checking for and throwing away expired food or medications. This is one of the most common reasons for health decline and one of the most easily avoidable. In-home care can help families monitor these activities. Alternatively, some families might benefit from senior living communities. Living on a campus gives people easy access to care, and they have more opportunities to stay socially and cognitively engaged. Look for a community with regular events and resident-run activities and groups.
These tips will help keep seniors and their families safe and healthy this summer.