While Florida residents are fortunate to enjoy nearly year-round perfect weather, the summers can be uncomfortably hot and humid, taking a toll on older adults in particular. As people age, their bodies are less tolerant of heat due to a variety of factors, including inefficient sweat glands, poor blood circulation, medication side effects, and chronic health conditions. These combinations of factors put older adults at greater risk for heat-related illnesses, which can be especially dangerous if warning signs are missed.
To help family caregivers know the signs of common heat-related illnesses, Jewish Family Home Care serving Tamarac, Florida and the surrounding areas, has compiled the following list.
Common Heat-Related Illnesses
- Heat syncope – Marked by sudden dizziness while active in hot weather, older adults who take some heart medications can be at greater risk for heat syncope. If a senior feels faint or dizzy, seek shade or return to an air-conditioned room, drink water, and elevate the feet and legs.
- Heat edema – This condition is noted by swelling in the feet and ankles when a person gets hot. Elevate the feet and legs to help reduce swelling and contact the senior’s physician if the swelling is not reduced quickly.
- Heat cramps – Painful tightening of the muscles in the arms, legs or stomach which are usually the result of exercise or physically demanding work outside. To alleviate heat cramps, seek a room with air conditioning or rest in the shade, and drink fluids like water or a sports drink.
- Heat stroke – The most serious heat-related illness, if an older adult shows signs of heat stroke, it’s important to seek prompt medical attention. Common symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Fainting or being unconscious
- Agitation, confusion or other noticeable change in behavior
- Abnormally high body temperature greater than 104 degrees
- Dry, flushed skin and a strong rapid pulse or a slow week pulse
- No sweating even though it’s hot
If an older adult displays symptoms for any of these heat-related illnesses, it’s recommended to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Tips to Lower the Risk for Heat-Related Illness
There are a number of ways in which family caregivers can help older adults decrease their risk for heat-related illness, while still enjoying the summer, such as:
- If the senior lives in a house or apartment without air conditioning, consider spending the hottest part of the day at the mall, local library, a senior center or some other public venue where there is air conditioning.
- Keep blinds and shades closed during the day, run fans to help circulate the air, refrain from using the oven or other appliances that generate heat during the hottest times of the day, and open windows at night.
- Drink plenty of water to remain hydrated. Older adults are more likely to become dehydrated, so it’s important for family caregivers to regularly offer water to drink and to encourage their senior loved ones to drink even when not thirsty. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as these beverages do not help hydrate a person.
- Dress appropriately by wearing natural fabrics like cotton or linen or specially designed synthetic materials that wick sweat away and provides sun protection. Also include a wide-brimmed hat.
- Participate in outdoor activities like exercise or gardening early in the morning or later in the evening when temperatures may be cooler.
- If you must be outside when it’s hot and humid, wear sunscreen and opt for sitting in shaded locations.
For additional tips on how to keep seniors safe during the heat of summer and to learn how an in-home caregiver can help ensure senior loved ones remain safely active and engaged all year round, contact the award-winning elder care team at Jewish Family Home Care. Our experienced team can help with a variety of care needs, from companion care to respite care, and everything in between. Reach out to the experts in home care in Tamarac, Florida and the surrounding areas at 954-908-5677 and schedule a free, no obligation consultation today!