By Donna Mischke, Director of Family Services at Concierge Care Advisors
We seem to be experiencing some unusually hot weather for this time of the year. There are still many homes in the Pacific Northwest that still do not have air conditioning. This can be uncomfortable for many but can be dangerous for our elderly population. According to the CDC, older adults are more susceptible to heat related illnesses which can have serious and even deadly consequences.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are two of the heat related illnesses and can range from mild to severe. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include dehydration, fatigue, weakness, headache, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke which is a medical emergency. Symptoms of heat stroke include a body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, confusion, agitation, seizures, and loss of consciousness. Heat stroke can lead to organ damage and even death.
Older adults are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses due to several factors. As we age, our bodies become less efficient at regulating body temperature, making it harder to cool down when exposed to hot temperatures. Adults are also more likely to have chronic medical conditions that can affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature, such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes. Additionally, many medications that are commonly prescribed to older adults can increase the risk of dehydration and heat related illnesses.
Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to prevent heat related illnesses in the elderly. Here are a few of them:
- Stay Cool: Encourage older adults to stay indoors during the hottest parts of the day and to use the air conditioning or a fan to keep cool. If air conditioning is not available, consider taking the person to a public place that is air-conditioned, such as a mall or library.
- Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids is essential to prevent dehydration. Encourage older adults to drink water and avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can dehydrate the body.
- Dress Appropriately: Loose lightweight clothing can help keep the body cool. Avoid dark colors, as they absorb the heat.
- Check on Loved Ones: If you have elderly loved ones, check on them frequently during the hot weather to make sure they are staying cool and hydrated.
- Seek Medical Attention if Needed: If an older adult shows signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, seek medical attention immediately. Heat stroke is a medical emergency and requires prompt treatment.
We can’t control the weather and just as cold weather has dangers, so does hot weather. Taking steps ahead of time can help to prevent heat related illnesses. By staying cool, hydrated, and informed, older adults can enjoy the upcoming heat safely.