Heat waves are a potentially deadly problem. Each year nearly 600 Americans die from extreme temperatures, most of them elderly people. Seniors often don't realize when they are overheated, dehydrated and in danger. During summertime, seniors have a particularly high risk of experiencing heat exhaustion because their bodies are not as efficient at maintaining an even temperature. If seniors get too overheated, they can experience a heat stroke that may have serious consequences if left untreated.
Part of the problem lies in the fact that older people simply can't handle the heat as well as younger individuals because they don't sweat as effectively and have poorer circulation. Obesity, heart disease, dementia, diabetes and other chronic medical conditions can compound the risk, as can certain medications like diuretics, antihypertensives and those used to treat Parkinson's disease. Fortunately, there are simple ways of protecting our aging loved ones from overheating.
To protect seniors from the unrelenting summer heat, the standard advice is for them to remain inside air-conditioned buildings, dress lightly and keep hydrated. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, since poor circulation often causes seniors to catch a chill more easily. It’s not uncommon for an elder to reach for a sweater or turn on the heat in their home even though it's unbearably hot outside.
Dehydration is another serious concern. The body’s natural thirst mechanism becomes less effective with age, so many seniors are perpetually dehydrated regardless of the season. To make things worse, elders often prefer beverages like coffee and soda to water. While drinks that are high in caffeine and sugar do contain some fluids, water is always the best option for staying hydrated.
Learn more about these common signs of heat stroke in seniors so you can work to prevent them. If your loved one should collapse or lose consciousness, it's considered a medical emergency and 911 should be called immediately.
Heat stroke is associated with excessive dehydration, so it tends to cause a strong headache and feelings of confusion or dizziness. At this early stage of heat stroke, it is important to get your loved one to a cool, shaded place and help him or her rehydrate with cool water or a sugar-free sports drink. To prevent dizziness, make sure your loved one remains hydrated and takes a break from the sun during the hottest part of the day.
Many seniors think they are not too hot if they are not sweating. However, heat stroke often dehydrates the body so severely that a senior may no longer sweat. Skin will be hot to the touch and noticeably dry. As temperature rises, skin may start to look reddened and flushed. Provide plenty of water and cool compresses as soon as your loved one starts showing signs of heat exhaustion.
As the body tries to cool itself, a senior may experience rapid, shallow breathing and a significantly increased pulse. This is a sign the heat is getting bad enough to damage the body. Seniors with weak circulatory systems are particularly prone to this symptom. If your loved one has a heart condition, seek immediate medical attention.
Recovering from a stroke, managing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and a variety of other health-related situations can make it difficult for a senior to continue living at home without someone there to help. Heritage Senior Care provides live-in care professionals that are trained to help seniors who need 24/7 assistance. With the help of a live-in caregiver, your elderly loved one can maintain a higher quality of life while aging in place.
Nausea and vomiting are some of the most severe signs of heat exhaustion. Encourage your loved one to go to a cool, shady area, remove extra clothing, and cool down with water or ice. Get medical attention to ensure the heat stroke does not cause further damage.
If this symptom occurs, call 911 immediately and get your loved one to a cool or wet place as quickly as possible. Because fainting and seizures are signs of severe heat stroke, it is important to prevent them whenever possible. Try to pay attention to your loved one and get him or her help before this sign of a heat stroke occurs.
For more information on our senior care services, call Heritage Senior Care at (800) 562-2734 today.