Summer Weather and the Elderly

Beacon of LIFE, in Oceanport, NJ, a government-approved PACE program that provides comprehensive, community-based care for seniors who would otherwise need to live in a facility. And it offers its services — which include adult day care, meals, primary care, hospital care, medical specialty services, prescription drugs, nursing home care, emergency services, home care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, recreational therapy, dentistry, nutritional counseling, social services, laboratory / X-ray services, social work counseling, and even transportation — in a beautiful, air-conditioned facility.

That’s especially important in the dog days of summer.

Summer is a welcome respite from the long, cold winter and the seemingly endless spring rainstorms. The sunshine and beautiful trees and flowers invite us outdoors. This invitation is generally worth accepting — it is being outside is healthy both psychologically and physically. However, older people need to be cautious.

Elderly people are less able to tolerate heat than younger people. One of the main reasons is the fact that ageing causes our bodies to become less efficient at regulating body temperature. For example, one of the body’s most important methods for heat regulation is sweating; numerous studies have verified that individuals over the age of 65 do not sweat nearly as much as younger people.

As a general rule it is advisable for seniors to drink fluids throughout the day during the summer months. Further, when outdoors is a good idea to bring along a water bottle or some other cold drink.

When the temperatures rise into the 80s and above, it is important to seek out air-conditioned spaces.

Doing otherwise can lead to heatstroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heatstroke and other heat-related illnesses are responsible for more than 600 deaths and thousands of hospitalizations each year in the United States. The CDC advises older people and those with risk factors for heat intolerance to be extremely cautious during the summer months.

The main symptoms of overexposure to heat include:

  1. Feeling excessively hot
  2. Feeling exhaustion or fatigue
  3. Dizziness
  4. Headache
  5. Nausea or vomiting
  6. Fainting

These symptoms can progress to the more serious and potentially fatal condition of heatstroke. Symptoms of heatstroke include a high body temperature, an absence of sweating, confusion, and even seizures and lapsing into a coma. Obviously, if any of these symptoms are noticed, medical help should be sought immediately.

In order to prevent the initial phases of heat intolerance from becoming heatstroke there are several important steps one can take.

  1. Try to get the affected person to a cool place and have them lie down
  2. If possible, get a fan to blow directly on them to help them cool off
  3. Providing cool drinks for the affected person to sip can be especially helpful in lowering their body temperature since it effects the body internally

Regarding dehydration, it is important to know that studies have shown that even a level of dehydration as low as 2% can affect the body’s ability to regulate heat. And for seniors, whose age is already a risk factor for heat intolerance, dehydration can greatly increase their chance of being adversely affected by warm temperatures.

At Beacon of LIFE, our care and services allow people who would otherwise need to live in a nursing home to remain in their own communities, and in their own homes.

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