You’re a caregiver because you care about the safety and happiness of someone else. That means you do everything you can to protect them, including keeping them safe in extreme hot weather.
Why It’s So Important To Protect Older Adults From Extreme Heat
July 2023 is officially the hottest July in Austin on record. The 100+ degree streak kept going through August, leaving no doubt that September won’t be bringing in the cooling autumn breezes you’ve been hoping for.
It’s more important than ever to know how to protect your loved ones from extreme heat. This is especially true for older adults, who are more susceptible to its effects.
Why are seniors more vulnerable to extreme heat?
Older adults are more likely to have risk factors for heat illness, which include:
- Cardiovascular, lung, or kidney disease
- Changes in skin caused by normal aging
- Any illness that causes weakness or results in a fever
- Taking certain medications – diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and some heart and high blood pressure medicines
- Being on several prescription drugs at the same time
- Being overweight or obese
- Drinking alcoholic beverages
- Living in a home with no air conditioning or fans
- Not drinking enough water
Signs of Heat Stroke, Heat Exhaustion or Other Heat Illness From Extreme Hot Weather
The first thing you can do to protect your loved one from extreme heat is to know the signs of heat-related illnesses.
The Signs of Heat Syncope
Sudden fainting (syncope) or dizziness caused by hot conditions.
Symptoms of heat syncope include:
- Fainting (short duration)
- Light-headedness from standing too long or suddenly rising from a sitting or lying position
What to do if someone is experiencing heat syncope:
- Have them sit or lie down in a cool place
- Encourage them to slowly drink water, clear juice, or a sports drink
The Signs of Heat Cramps
Heat cramps – muscle cramps, pain, or spasms in the abdomen, arms, or legs caused by a hot environment – happen when sweating depletes the body’s salt and moisture levels. This occurs more often in individuals who work in the heat or perform strenuous activities.
What to do if someone is experiencing heat cramps:
- Have them drink water and have a snack or a drink that replaces carbohydrates and electrolytes (such as sports drinks) every 15 to 20 minutes
- Avoid salt tablets
Get medical help if:
- The individual has heart problems or is on a low-sodium diet
- The cramps last over an hour
The Signs of Heat Exhaustion
When your body can no longer keep itself cool. Someone experiencing heat exhaustion might be feeling:
They may also sweat a lot and have cold and clammy skin or a rapid pulse. Heat exhaustion could be an emergency situation.
What to do if someone is experiencing heat exhaustion:
- Remove them from the hot area as soon as possible
- Try to cool them off in other ways, like removing unnecessary clothing or placing cool, wet cloths on their skin
- Make sure they take frequent sips of cool water or a sports drink
- Take them to a clinic or emergency room to be evaluated
The Signs of Heat Stroke – A Medical Emergency
Signs of heat stroke can include:
- Behavior changes
- High body temperature (over 104°F)
- Dry skin
- A strong and rapid pulse
- A slow and weak pulse
- No longer sweating even though it’s hot
- Slurred speech
- Loss of consciousness (coma)
What to do if someone is experiencing heat stroke:
Heat stroke is always a medical emergency. If someone appears to be experiencing heat stroke, here’s what you should do:
- Call 911 for emergency medical care
- Stay with the individual until emergency medical services arrive
- Move them to a shaded, cool area and remove outer clothing
- Circulate the air around the individual to speed cooling
- Place cold, wet cloths or ice on the head, neck, armpits, and groin
Cool them quickly, by:
- A cold water or ice bath, if possible
- Wetting the skin
- Placing cold, wet cloths on the skin
- Soaking clothing with cool water
Tips for Keeping Older Adults Safe in Extreme Hot Weather
Here are a few ways you can keep older adults safe in extreme hot weather:
- Make sure they’re drinking plenty of liquids, like water, juice or beverages that contain electrolytes, like sports drinks or coconut water
- If they live in a home without air conditioning, do what you can to keep their space cool – keep curtains and blinds closed during the day, limit use of the oven and open windows at night
- Make sure they have fans in their home, especially if the home doesn’t have air conditioning
- If they don’t have air conditioning, consider spending the hottest part of the day in an air conditioned public space, like a public library
- Dress them or encourage them to dress in light-colored, breathable fabrics like cotton or linen
- Encourage them to avoid being outside during the hottest parts of the day and instead opt for morning or evening to enjoy the outdoors
- Encourage them to apply SPF and wear protective clothing, like a wide-brimmed hat anytime they head outdoors
- Find out if they’re taking any medications that might make them more vulnerable to sunburn or sun illness
Heat-Related Safety for People With Dementia
Dementia can cause memory loss, confusion and visual and auditory hallucinations. These symptoms mean that as the disease progresses, individuals with dementia must be monitored more closely to ensure their safety.
If someone you care about has dementia, make sure they’re safe in the hot weather, and not just while they’re outside. The average home can be dangerous for someone with dementia, especially if they live alone.
Here are some hot weather safety tips for dementia:
- If the person uses a portable fan, make sure that objects can’t be placed in the blades
- Place fans near electrical outlets to avoid using an extension cord. If an extension cord must be used, attach it to the baseboards to reduce the risk of tripping
- Install alarms that alert you if a door or window is opened. This can reduce the risk of wandering in hot weather and has the added advantage of keeping cool air inside the house
- Fence off swimming pools with a locked gate and cover, if possible
- Hide an extra key outside the home in case the person with dementia locks the door and a caregiver or emergency responder needs to get inside
- Keep a list of all medicines the person takes and ask a doctor if any of them increase the risk of sunburn or sun illness
Find Peace of Mind at Sundara
When we get extreme hot weather here in Texas, wouldn’t you love to know that your loved one is safe and sound? That they’re not at home alone, unsure of what to do if the air conditioning goes out, but instead watched over by friendly senior care experts?
If you’re ready for peace of mind, schedule your visit today.