Summer is heating up, and that means it’s time to keep an eye on the thermostat, grab a cool glass of lemonade and take steps to keep ourselves safe from the rising temperatures. Seniors age 65 and older are less tolerant towards extreme temperatures than younger individuals, meaning that they and their loved ones should take precautions this summer.
“There’s no reason seniors and people of all ages can’t enjoy outside activities during the summer months,” says Angel Van Horn, Community Relations Specialist at Park Manor, the most trusted retirement community in Nashville, TN. “With some common sense and a little preparation, it is possible to be safe in the heat. The most important factors to remember are water, rest and shade. Getting enough of those three things and listening to your body will help you stay cool and safe.”
Types of Heat-Related Sickness
Think of overheating and heat-related illness as a spectrum ranging from mild to extreme. When we get too much sun, we’ll start experiencing different symptoms. It’s important to recognize the signs and know what steps to take if and when they occur.
Heat rash. Heat rash is the mildest of overheating-related issues. It occurs when the sweat glands in your skin become blocked, so your sweat can’t get to the surface in order to evaporate. This causes an inflammation that presents as red bumps or a prickly, itchy sensation. Heat rash will usually go away once you’ve cooled down.
Heat cramps. These muscle spasms occur when we sweat too much, losing a large amount of salt and water, and don’t hydrate enough. They can be quite painful, but generally will go away by replenishing your body’s fluid and electrolyte levels (sports drinks are a good solution). It’s important to note that heat cramps may be a symptom of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, so if they last for longer than an hour, you’ll want to get medical attention.
Heat exhaustion. This serious illness occurs when our bodies lose too much water through sweating. If you or a loved one have a rapid pulse, feel nauseous, have a headache, or are dizzy and weak, take immediate action. Move to a cool place, remove extra layers of clothes, drink lots of water and apply cool cloths at pulse points. If the symptoms don’t lessen, call 911 or head to the emergency room.
Heat stroke. This is the most extreme form of heat-related illness and is a medical emergency. If your loved one suddenly stops sweating and their skin is hot to the touch, or he or she becomes confused, feels dizzy or faints or starts having seizures, call 911. Immediately move the person to a cool area and get them to drink as much fluid as they can. Cool the person down with wet compresses and fans or get them into a cool shower or bath. Heat stroke causes more than 600 deaths in the United States each year.
Tips for Staying Safe in the Heat
1. Drink plenty of fluids.
Generally, we’re supposed to drink eight cups of water per day. However, in the summertime, experts recommend at least a gallon (yes, a gallon) of liquid per day, and even more if you’re going to be outside for long amounts of time. Be sure to take a water bottle or two with you whenever you’re out and about, and when you’re inside, drink something at least once per hour. Water is the best choice, but you can enjoy light fruit juices and herbal teas if you wish. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol, as these will make you more dehydrated.
2. Stay inside during the hottest part of the day.
Whenever possible, schedule activities first thing in the morning or in the late afternoon (or preferably evening). The sun is the strongest between 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., so to be safe, stay inside during these times. If you plan on being outside all day, take frequent breaks in the shade (or air conditioning) and dress appropriately.
3. Wear sunscreen.
Seniors’ skin naturally thins as they age, and many aging adults also take medications that can make them more susceptible to the sun’s rays. Be sure to wear sunscreen every day and apply it every two hours at least, or more if you’re sweating a lot. Carry a small tube in your purse or car so you can reapply whenever needed.
4. Dress appropriately.
Loose and flowing clothing, plus a big hat and sunglasses, are the best options for a summer wardrobe. Wearing layers is a good option, because it allows you to bundle or shed options depending on how the temperature fluctuates.
5. Talk to your doctor.
Some medications make people more sensitive to the sun. Make sure you know if your prescriptions mean you need to take extra precautions. It probably won’t mean you have to forego outdoor activities, just that you’ll need to make extra sure to follow some of the other suggestions on this list to avoid problems.
6. Keep your home cool.
If you have an air conditioner, have a technician come out and service it so it’s ready to go when you need it (nothing’s worse in summer than a surprise broken air conditioner). If you or your loved one don’t have central air conditioning, consider investing in a window or portable unit, At the very least, have plenty of fans to make sure the air is circulating. Keep your blinds closed during the hottest part of the day (you can also invest in blackout shades that will keep heat out and cool air in). When you’re cooking, use the stovetop or grill instead of turning on the oven.
7. Know the signs of heat-related illness.
Review the symptoms of the four heat-related illnesses so that you’re aware of what they are, and what to do if you or someone you know is experiencing any of the symptoms. Preparation is your best line of defense!
“The safety of our residents is of utmost important to us, and we take extra care during the summer months to make sure everyone in our community is cool and comfortable,” says Angel. “This allows our residents to enjoy their active and independent lifestyle, but also feel secure that they have a whole staff of friends who are watching out for them and who will be there at a moment’s notice whenever they need us.”
If you have more questions about summer safety tips, or to learn more about our senior living community, please contact us at 615.997.3030.
Love Where You Live!
Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Do I love where I live?” If you ask that question of the residents of Park Manor, Nashville’s premier retirement community, the answer would be a resounding, “Yes!” For over 50 years, Park Manor has served Nashville’s seniors by providing a community designed to support an active, independent, secure, healthy and worry-free lifestyle. Located on seven spacious acres in the desirable Nashville neighborhood Belle Meade, we’re proud to provide a lifestyle our residents love each and every day.
Park Manor’s approach to senior living is simple: exceed our residents’ expectations. We strive to provide everything you could possibly need and want to live your life the way you choose. At Park Manor, you will enjoy a standard of living reminiscent of a luxury resort – but it’s not a vacation – it’s your lifestyle! This commitment is why we are held in such high regard by our surrounding community and are known as thepremier retirement community offering Independent Living and Assisted Living lifestyles.
For seniors requiring memory care, Park Manor is associated with the prestigious Abe’s Garden® Memory Care Center of Excellence. Abe’s Garden® is committed to transforming the care of those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by establishing a national model of residential living and day care programs for those suffering from the disease. Abe’s Garden® provides an unprecedented level of care in addition to a comprehensive array of services and lifestyle options.
At Park Manor, your continued independence is our top priority. Enjoy living life as you choose … in the comfort and privacy of your own apartment, while having the peace of mind of knowing help is available if and when you need it.
For more information, please call 615.997.3030.