Heat and loneliness are two of the worst curses for seniors during summertime, especially when they are isolated. Learn how to help seniors around you spend a nice and serene summer, with the right reflexes.
Seniors: higher risks during the summer
The 2003 heatwave raised awareness about risks for the elderly population when temperatures go up. Seniors are more likely to suffer from dehydration and heat strokes, for various reasons:
Due to their age, they are physiologically less aware of heat and thirst. They have a tendency to wear more clothes than necessary, because they don’t feel the outside temperature. Seniors also have a less accurate sense of thirst: they do not feel the need to hydrate, therefore they often drink less than necessary and not frequently enough. Finally, the perspiring function is slowed when comes a certain age. It is what allows the body to maintain a stable temperature. The less you sweat, the less you’re able to control your body temperature.
Tweet: Seniors are less sensitive to heat and thirst.
Loneliness: unfortunately, many seniors live alone and have very few relatives to rely on. In these conditions, it is difficult for them to take care of themselves.
Housing: bad heat-proofing, ill-adapted, it may not be a solid shield against outside conditions.
Learn and teach the right reflexes
Dehydration is the worst enemy! It is essential that seniors drink at least 1.5 liters of water everyday. It is approximately the quantity of liquid that the human body is able to perspire. Ideally, they should drink small quantities of water, but on a regular basis. You can help by offering to set up a reminder with their alarm clock or their phone!
It can be tricky during high temperature periods: seniors lose their appetite… Most of them have taken on the good habit of drinking regularly, but some of them eat very little amounts of food, and sometimes even forget to eat. As a consequence, the mineral salts that help fixate hydration are diluted and it may result in hyponatremia – which is an insufficient level of sodium in the blood – inducing possible strokes or faintness. It is crucial that seniors keep on eating sufficiently: small split meals, with more cold foods, like raw vegetables, fruits and proteins.
– Protect them from the heat
It sounds obvious, but it can turn out to be quite tricky… It requires that the person is able to move around in their apartment without being directly exposed to the sun.
If the person has limited mobility, put his/her favorite chair in a cool and shaded room. If their home doesn’t have air conditioning, invest in a mobile air conditioning device, or fans at the minimum. Make sure the devices are simple to use, so that the senior is able to handle them on his/her own.
Finally, teach your elderly relatives to moisten as often as they can: face, head, body… Showers, water misters, wet cloths, any of these options can be useful.
Warning signs to look out for
When an elderly person in your close circle is alone during a heatwave, make sure you visit him/her often enough. If you notice the following signals, go to a doctor or call an emergency service:
– Consciousness trouble (blanks, comprehension difficulties, slow reflexes…)
– Weakness, fatigue, drowsiness
– Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, muscle cramps
– Unstoppable sensation of thirst
– Unusual agitation
– Body temperature rising above 38.5 °C
In any case, it is essential to maintain a bond with your elderly relatives in high temperature periods. A GPS tracking system with an SOS button allows you to be alerted in case of faintness: the senior is able to contact you easily and you can watch over him/her remotely. It is an appropriate solution to maintain a good level of comfort and autonomy for the seniors around you.Consciousness troubles, weakness, nausea, unusual agitation… are signals that you should look out for. Click To Tweet