High Temperatures Increase Health Risks for Seniors

Caring.com Provides Practical Tips to Help Seniors Stay Safe in the Summer Heat

San Mateo, CA, July 14, 2011 "“ With much of the U.S. broiling under an intense heat wave, the experts at Caring.com, the leading online resource for caregivers, have designed tips to help seniors reduce heat-related health risks. Research shows that seniors are more vulnerable to heat illness, the two biggest risks being heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Dehydration and heat cramps are also common dangers.

To protect seniors from high temperatures, make sure they:

  • Drink plenty of hydrating fluids, like water, and avoid dehydrating fluids, like alcohol and caffeinated beverages

  • Limit time in the direct sun and wear hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen

  • Have working air conditioning or electric fans -- and know how to use them

  • Talk to their doctors about how the heat might affect their medical conditions and medicines

  • Aren't overdressing; some seniors layer on clothes out of habit

Additional actions to take during the summer heat:

  • Visit elders once or twice daily to make sure they're OK. If you can't, ask neighbors, friends, caregivers, or the local police if they can do daily checks. Some areas have senior "check-in services" that can call or visit your loved one.

  • If they don't have air conditioning, help them visit an air-conditioned location for a few hours daily, such as a movie theater, shopping mall, or adult daycare center (search online using your loved ones' town).

  • Keep glasses or bottles of cool water within easy reach. Refill them often.

Stroke victims need to pay extra attention to the summer heat. When you suffer a stroke, your body's "thermostat" (principally located in the thalamus and hypothalamus) can be damaged, and your body temperature won't adapt smoothly to environmental changes. Caring.com recommends that stroke victims help regulate their body temperature by wearing easily adjustable clothing (such as a light jacket that can be quickly removed in the heat) and try to avoid extreme temperatures.

In addition, during periods of high heat, caregivers should pay extra attention to loved ones with dementia, as they may forget to hydrate or may not recognize or communicate their thirst. Caring.com recommends that caregivers encourage loved ones to take frequent sips of liquid. It can help for caregivers to take a drink themselves, as observing them drinking may encourage loved ones to copy the behavior. For more practical tips, Caring.com has created Steps & Stages, with stage-appropriate advice and support for those providing care for a loved one with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia.

"The experts at Caring.com understand the challenges of caring for an elderly loved one during the summer months," said Andy Cohen, co-founder and CEO of Caring.com. "The steps we've outlined can make a huge difference for seniors. With the current heat wave impacting millions of Americans, we hope family caregivers pay extra attention to their loved ones during the hot, and potentially dangerous, summer months."