Summer is here, public places are re-opening, and the outdoors are calling! While many of us live for longer, warmer days, this time of year also brings a higher risk for heat-related illness for seniors, particularly for those living with dementia who are unable to recognize the signs or take action.
“Summer heat claims more lives than any other inclement weather condition,” says Michele Lyon, Executive Director at YourLife™ of West Melbourne, a new Memory Care community in West Melbourne, Florida. “While it’s exciting to be able to hit the pool, beaches, and family celebrations again, it’s important to keep in mind the safety needs of loved ones who are highly susceptible to heatstroke.”
In this post, we’ll list tips to maximize your loved one’s fun in the sun by keeping them safe and cool.
First, Why Are Seniors at Risk?
- Seniors lose the ability to perspire and regulate body temperature.
- Older skin thins and offers less protection from the sun.
- Sunburn can significantly obstruct the skin's ability to shed excess heat.
- Poor circulation, heart, lung and kidney diseases, and high blood pressure increase the risk for heat-related illness.
- Medications taken for a variety of conditions and symptoms that can interfere with the body’s ability to acclimate to hot weather.
- Decreased sensation of thirst, coupled with less water retained by older bodies
- People with dementia often choose clothing that is inappropriate for the weather, e.g., shorts in the winter, heavy sweaters in the summer
The thermostat does not have to hit 100° F for heatstroke to occur, and body temperatures can rise to 106°F or higher within just 10-15 minutes. Here’s what to look for and how to keep seniors safe this summer:
- Heat Stress: Headache, nausea, fatigue
- Heat Fatigue: Cool, moist skin, a weakened pulse
- Heat Syncope: Sudden dizziness, feeling faint or fainting, pale, sweaty skin that is moist and cool to the touch, weak pulse and rapid heart rate but normal body temperature
- Heat Cramps: Muscle spasms in the abdomen, arms or legs after exercise
- Heat Exhaustion: Thirst, giddiness, weakness, lack of coordination, nausea and profuse sweating; cold, clammy skin; pulse is normal or raised slightly; pupils may contract; urination decreases; possible vomiting
- Heatstroke: Life-threatening. Immediate medical attention is required. Death can occur quickly. Body temperature rises above 104° F; person may become confused, combative, behave bizarrely, feel faint and stagger; pulse is rapid; skin is dry, flushed and may feel hot; lack of sweating; breathing may be fast and shallow; pupils may widen or dilate; delirium, seizures or convulsions, and coma are possible
11 Recommendations for Preventing Heatstroke
- Check local weather forecasts: Plan outdoor activities when temperatures are coolest
- Provide cool clothing: Lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting, preferably of natural fabrics like cotton. Use hats and umbrellas outdoors.
- Keep home cool:
- Use air conditioning: If you don’t have air conditioning, invest in a room air conditioner, use room fans, or drive to an air-conditioned public place where seniors can sit.
- Cover windows: Pull drapes and consider using window reflectors, such as foil-covered cardboard, to reflect heat outside.
- Use fans: In addition to room fans, attic fans clear hot air.
- Reapply sunscreen regularly.
- Avoid direct sun exposure.
- Limit physical activity.
- Serve plenty of non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated fluids.
- Monitor medications and learn which ones may contribute to overheating.
- Give cool showers or sponge baths.
- Do not leave loved ones in hot cars.
- Check on the person frequently.
3 Things to Do If Someone Is Having a Heatstroke
- If your loved has a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, and a temperature over 103° F, call for immediate medical attention.
- Move the person to a shady area or in a cool bath or shower, spray them with cool water from a garden hose, or if the humidity is low, wrap the victim in a cool, wet sheet and fan them vigorously.
- Monitor body temperature and continue cooling efforts until body temperature drops or medical assistance arrives.
Remember to keep your loved one well hydrated, cool, and regularly checked for signs of heat distress. With a little preparation, prevention, and a watchful eye, your whole family can enjoy a fun, safe summer this year.
For more dementia-safety tips, call the life-enrichment experts at YourLife™ of West Melbourne today! 321-236-4578
Inspiring Memory Care Designed for You. Defined by You.
YourLife™ of West Melbourne was created to provide the most exceptional Memory Care and uplifting lifestyle for our residents. We focus all our energy, attention and resources on creating a community that caters to each resident’s personal needs, respects their choices and honors individuality while providing unmatched peace of mind and support for families.
Because Memory Care is our sole focus, we have the unique ability to design and personally tailor plans around our residents. We understand that each resident is an individual that has their own story, specific needs and retained abilities, so we develop personally inspired care plans that value and support each person’s independence.
Our team of attentive, caring YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists is on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide assistance with everyday activities, gentle reminders and redirection.
With YourStory, our signature programming, we create an individual experience centered around each resident. From cultural, educational and holistic health and wellness programming, outings and an array of other special events to personal care, assistance and therapies, we create days with meaning. At YourLife™ of West Melbourne, our residents and families know that this is a community designed for you, with a lifestyle defined by you. Contact us to learn more!
Call us at 321-236-4578 for more information or to schedule a personal visit today.