The Importance of Keeping Cool

July 18, 2014

The extreme heat of our Texas summers is much more than an inconvenience for seniors — it can actually create a deadly situation. Because elderly folks often have problems with circulation, their bodies can’t cool as effectively as younger people. They also tend to sweat less, which is another obstacle to keeping cool.

When seniors are exposed to long periods of high temperatures, they run the risk of hypothermia — prolonged high body temperature — that can cause heat fatigue, cramps, sudden bouts of dizziness and even heat stroke.

The risks of heat-related problems are made worse when your loved one suffers from heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and other chronic medical issues. Even some commonly prescribed medications, like those for Parkinson’s disease and high blood pressure, can add to an already dangerous situation.

Luckily, it’s not difficult to keep elderly folks cool and comfy when the sun is blazing. Follow these simple tips to make sure your loved ones are safe and healthy this summer:

1. Make sure they’re drinking enough water.

Sometimes this is easier said than done, because like most of us, elderly folks enjoy an icy glass of lemonade, soda or tea more than plain old water. If that’s the case for your loved one, try to keep the sugar and sodium to a minimum — and avoid caffeinated drinks all together. Caffeine is hard on the heart, and it tends to be dehydrating, too.

2. Encourage them to stay in an air-conditioned environment.

Again, this isn’t always easy to accomplish. Reduced circulatory activity often makes seniors feel chilled in an air-conditioned room. If your elder complains of being too cold, adjust the thermostat a few degrees higher. If he or she insists on stepping outside, find a shady spot to sit — a screened-in porch with a gentle ceiling fan or box fan is ideal.

3. Keep them cool, even without air conditioning at home.

For seniors who don’t have air conditioning (or won’t use it) help them stay cool by paying attention to the position of the sun. Close up the curtains or blinds on east-facing windows in the morning, and do the same for west-facing windows in the afternoon. And make sure they’re spending a little time in a cool place — a short trip to the mall or movie theater is a good way to spend a hot afternoon away from home.

4. Make healthy frozen treats for them.

Everybody loves an icy popsicle when it’s hot outside. But instead of buying the sugary store-bought variety, buy a kit for making your own. Then use pure fruit juice to make a delicious, healthy frozen snack. And don’t forget whole fruits — watermelon is a favorite summer snack for a reason! It’s got a very high water content, so it makes a great way to sneak some extra hydration into those stubborn folks who won’t drink water.

Finally, elderly folks are especially susceptible to those humid days when the air feels thick and breathing takes an extra effort. So make sure your loved ones are cool and comfy indoors on those days — particularly when ozone levels are high.

With just a few precautions, you can ensure a healthy, happy summer for the elderly people in your life. We wish you and your loved ones a shady, cool, enjoyable season!

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