With summer conditions rapidly approaching, it is important to identify any potential risks that could harm your elderly loved ones. Increased temperatures and stronger sun exposures can really have a big impact on any individual, but especially on seniors.
Recognizing a Heat-Related Illness
Elderly people ages 65 and older are more prone to heat stress than younger people for several reasons:
- Elderly people do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature.
- They are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat. • They are more likely to take prescription medicines that impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration.
Below is a guide for a few common problems that can occur with heat related complications:
- Cramps (soreness)
Reason: Overworked muscles, fatigue, low electrolytes, lack of water (dehydration).
Symptoms: Muscle cramping of the shoulders, calves and thighs. Painful muscle spasms.
Treatment: Rest and hydration using electrolyte solutions, such as Gatorade, Powerade, etc. Stretching and massaging affected muscles.
- Heat Exhaustion (sick)
Reason: Heavy sweating results in loss of fluids and electrolytes. Excessive activity.
Symptoms: Sick feeling, weakness, lightheaded when/while standing, headache, nausea and vomiting. Skin is cool and clammy to the touch.
Treatment: Cease activities. Relocate to a cooler area. Rest. Replenish fluids and electrolytes using sips. Medical assistance may be necessary.
- Heat Stroke (life threatening)
Reason: Body’s cooling system is overloaded. Severe dehydration. Excessive activity.
Symptoms: Lethargic, disoriented, possibly combative. In some cases, unconsciousness may occur. Seizures are common. Hot skin that feels moist, yet dry.
Treatment: Call 911. Cool the individual with whatever you have available: cool water, fan, remove clothing, ice packs at the groin and armpit areas.
- Be sure to contact all physicians related to your loved one and check to see if they are on a fluid-restrictive diet.
- Prepare in advance at least one gallon of water per person, per day and refrigerate.
- Collect all essential medicines they may be taking, along with all prescription information and keep them in a cool location in the home.
- Keep a list of the names, addresses, phone numbers for all doctors and pharmacists.
- Stock up on some non-perishable, easily prepared snacks and fluids such as juices, fruits and water.
- Always check in before, during and after the hottest points of the day.
- Organize a neighborhood buddy system using friends, family and neighbors to check on your loved one either in person or by using the phone.
With all this in mind, summer season in Flagstaff is a great time to get your loved ones outside and enjoy the weather. And, although we do not face incredibly high temperatures like some of our neighboring communities, the elevation and strength of the sun is still a factor worthy of consideration and preparation. FBN
By Jordan Fox
Visiting Angels of Flagstaff is the leader in Dementia and Alzheimer’s specialized care serving Flagstaff, Williams, Winslow, Payson and Show Low. For more information regarding home care and living assistance services, visit our website visitingangels.com/flagstaff.
You can also contact the director of the Flagstaff Office, Jordan Fox, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at 928-220-4100. The office is located at 718 N. Humphreys St. Ste 201, Flagstaff, AZ 86001.