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Seattle Summers: Maintaining Elder Health in the Heat

While most of us are reveling in the fantastic summer here in the Northwest, I have heard concerns about the effect of the unusually warm weather on seniors from several of our Senior Advisors in the field this month; many seniors are suffering severe health issues as a consequence of the heat. According to AARP, it’s a very real problem.

Elder Health in the Heat

The American Association of Retired Persons have affirmed that “more Americans die each year from heat than natural disasters.” This means the heat – which we usually relish in wet weather – causes more death than earthquakes, floods, thunder storms, and hurricanes combined.

In addition to this, the CDC has tallied that 40% of those deaths happen to those aged 65 and older.

The reason elders are in more jeopardy than others is because many are on some form of medication that makes their bodies react adversely to the heat or unable to cool as easily. Those with heart problems, chronic health conditions, or taking diuretics should be wary about being out in the heat.

Since 60% of the deaths occur in people who suffer (or are at risk) of heart disease, then elder health is especially a concern. Remaining in an air-conditioned household, mall, or movie theater may be the best option to stay out of the heat.

In general, seniors become more vulnerable to extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold, and we are having an exceptionally warm summer this year. If your mom or dad lives in an un-air-conditioned home, please make sure to check in on them.

How to Maintain Elder Health in the Heat

  • Make sure they are drinking enough water
    • Dehydration has been a major issue already
    • Symptoms may include confusion and appear like memory loss
  • Buy them a fan and make sure their house stays at a comfortable temperature
  • Take them to a shopping center/restaurant, or some other place that is air conditioned for a respite from the heat
  • Appetites also diminish with heat, so make sure mom or dad are getting proper nutrition

How to Tell if Your Elder is Suffering from the Heat

Signs that your senior is suffering from heat stress may include the following:

  • Paleness
  • Hot and dry skin
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Muscle cramps
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Worsening of pre-existing medical conditions
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fainting or coma
  • Delirium

If your mom or dad are living alone, they may have reduced mobility, or otherwise be unable to properly care for themselves. Often, they don’t recognize the symptoms of over-heating, or simply ignore it. You can help maintain elder health by checking in on your loved one at least twice per day during warm weather, or think about a respite in a beautiful setting for the warmer months of July or August.

They will enjoy the company, activities, and be in a safe environment. In addition, if you’ve been thinking that mom or dad needs more help, or it’s time for them to think about moving, a respite “vacation” can be a perfect introduction to the idea!

As always, spread awareness of elder health in the heat this summer so we can save seniors from stress.

2015-01-15T21:45:06+00:00