Summer is in full swing in Philadelphia and it’s time to revisit some vital safety tips for seniors. Elderly persons are more vulnerable when it comes to the effects of heat and at greater risk for dehydration. According to the CDC, elderly people are more at risk because:
- They don’t adjust as well as young people to fluctuations in temperature.
- They are more likely to suffer from a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat.
- They are more likely to take prescription medicines that affect the body’s ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration.
Family members or healthcare assistants who take care of seniors during the summer in Philadelphia should be aware of these medical facts. Here are some senior safety tips for the summer months as well as some ways to stay safe when the temperatures soar:
- Plan activities that require going outside during non-peak hours when it’s cooler.
- Move socialization indoors. Consider inviting their neighbors or friends to your house instead of holding the meetings outdoors.
- Make sure they drink plenty of fluids (non-alcoholic, caffeine-free as these ingredients have a diuretic effect). Talk with their GP if the senior is on medications that affect fluid intake, such as Lasix.
Additionally, it may be important to include more foods and drinks in their menu with sodium and potassium to restore electrolyte balance when losing fluids and drinking a lot of water: broths or soups (contain sodium); fruit juice, soft fruits, vegetables (containing potassium); sports drinks that contain electrolytes.
Staying indoors in cooled spaces is the best way to counter the heat wave during summers in Philadelphia. Check your loved one’s air conditioning system, do a maintenance review.
Your home health care assistant should be alert for possible signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke if temperatures are particularly high.
The most common signs of dehydration in the elderly are thirst, confusion, irritability and poor skin elasticity. Keeping them hydrated on a regular basis is the most important preventative measure, and individuals should be encourage to drink fluids even when not thirsty as thirst may not be triggered until already dehydrated. Heat and dehydration may make seniors more prone to dizziness and falls and can cause/increase confusion. Some of the worrying signs that indicate the immediate need for medical attention include:
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle Cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
- Skin: may be cool and moist
- Pulse rate: fast and weak
- Breathing: fast and shallow
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the body loses its ability to sweat, and it is unable to cool down. Body temperatures rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can result in death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. Warning signs vary but may include the following:
- An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F)
- Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
- Rapid, strong pulse
- Throbbing headache
Any indication of heat stroke is a medical emergency. Seek immediate medical attention.
Be aware of other senior summer dangers in Philadelphia. Pools can pose a drowning hazard. Safety precautions should be considered if you are caring for a senior in your home with a pool or your elderly loved one lives alone and has a pool. Consider installing locks or a safety fence.
For a safe senior summer in Philadelphia you can consider hiring additional help around the home, such as for weeding, cleaning gutters and trimming trees. These activities are dangerous for elderly people in the heat, but may also pose general risks for falling and safety. Insect bites and sun exposure are two other dangers for seniors during summers in Philadelphia. Be vigilant about insect bites. If you notice an abnormal bite or unusual symptoms on your loved one, seek medical attention.
In Philadelphia, another area of “summertime” concern for many seniors is that their support systems dwindle when neighbors spend time up north or away on vacations. If your elderly parent depends on neighbors for support or you rely on them to check in, factor in these changes during the summer. Consider what extra services might be needed, such as hiring a home care aide to visit or assist with errands or transportation. Call and visit regularly and talk with family, friends and neighbors about a system for checking in, especially during drastic heat or summer storms in Philadelphia.