Extreme temperatures in the summer mean that it’s often hot inside and outside. Summer months bring added stress for seniors and their caregivers, as the risk of accident, injury, and illness are much higher due to the heat. Elderly people are more sensitive to the heat, humidity, and sun exposure and are at a higher risk of a heat-related illness or death.
Dehydration, poor circulation, mobility problems, and poor health can also contribute to summer falls, accidents, and injuries. If your loved one is in an assisted living facility, check in with the staff to find out what safeguards they have in place for protecting their residents during the summer.
If you have an elderly loved one you want to keep safe, you might consider hiring in-home care or elder care services to protect them through the summer. Here are some summer safety tips for keeping your elderly family members safe.
Help Them Maintain Their Hydration
Elderly people are at a higher risk of dehydration than younger people. They don’t sweat as effectively, and it’s harder for them to recognize the symptoms of thirst. Many seniors take medications that act as diuretics, which cause their body to lose fluids.
If you are caring for an elderly relative or have hired an in-home care aide, be aware of the importance of proper hydration, especially if your loved one will be spending any time outside. Try to find ways to encourage your loved one to drink more water, like making pitchers of iced tea or switching out water for other beverages at meal times.
If your loved one shows signs of dehydration, such as excessive sweating, diarrhea, or disorientation, give them a sports drink or Pedialyte instead of water.
Dress Appropriately for the Weather
Seniors are also more sensitive to sun exposure because the fatty, protective layer below the skin gets thinner with age. If your loved one lives in an assisted living facility or memory care facility, talk to the staff about limiting their time outside during the summer.
If the temperature is mild enough that it is safe to spend time outside, make sure your loved one is dressed appropriately to avoid heat-related illness, dehydration, and sunburn:
- Apply a sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection and has an SPF of at least 30.
- Encourage your loved one to wear light-colored, loose clothing that covers their legs and arms to limit sun exposure and help them maintain their body temperature.
- Give them sunglasses and a hat with a brim to protect them from sunburn.
Stay Inside When Necessary
When the temperature is over 85 degrees outside or there are high levels of humidity, it’s often better to keep your loved one inside in an air-conditioned or cooled environment. If you have an in-home care aide or elder care aide, ask them to make sure your loved one doesn’t wander outside in the heat.
If your loved one is at an assisted living facility, ask the staff about indoor-only activities they can participate in on the hottest days of the summer. Between 10 am and 4 pm, the sun is at its strongest and it’s safer to spend those hours inside.
If your loved one needs to spend time outdoors every day, encourage them to do it in the early morning or early evening hours. If your loved one doesn’t have air conditioning in their home, look into senior activities at your local community center and libraries.
Make Sure Medications Are Up to Date & Stored Properly
It’s easier for seniors to forget to take their medication in the summer, as the heat combined with their discomfort may make them forgetful. Medications start to degrade at temperatures over 86 degrees Fahrenheit, and if your loved one doesn’t have air conditioning, you should speak to their doctor about how to preserve their medications.
You may need to buy a small medication refrigerator for storage. Medication shouldn’t be stored in the bathroom, as that is often the hottest and most humid area of the home. If your loved one is having trouble remembering their medication, consider hiring an in-home care aide for medication management.
Avoid Travel & Long Car Trips
Traveling or spending long periods of time in the car can be exhausting for the elderly. Travel also increases their risk of blood clots, blood pressure fluctuations, dehydration, and missed medications. Try to avoid travel and long car trips during the summer, and focus on activities that can be done inside in the air conditioning.
Movie marathons, crafting, scrapbooking, and reading to your loved one are safer activities that will offer socialization and mental stimulation without risking their health and safety.
Be Aware of Signs of Heat-Related Illness
If your loved one develops a heat-related illness, you need to get medical attention immediately or they will be at risk of stroke, loss of consciousness, seizure, and even death. Make sure you and your loved one’s in-home care aide are aware of the signs of heat-related illnesses:
- Excessive sweating
- Intense thirst
- Muscle cramps in the abdomen, leg, or arms
- Skin that is cool or clammy to the touch
- Nausea or vomiting
You should also be aware of the symptoms of heatstroke. Heatstroke is a much more severe heat-related illness that is caused by dehydration and elevated body temperatures. The symptoms include:
- Lack of sweating
- A body temperature over 103 degrees Fahrenheit
- Skin that is red, dry, or hot
- Confusion and disorientation
- Memory loss
Seniors and Falls – Managing the Risk at Home
If your loved one falls and injures themselves while outside alone, a minor injury can turn into a serious health risk. Your loved one may end up trapped outside in the heat and sun, without access to shade, shelter, or a phone.
This can lead to dehydration, sunburn, illness, heat stroke, or even death. Walk around the interior and exterior of your loved one’s home or assisted living facility to look for trip hazards. Check for uneven sidewalks and walkways, broken or missing patio pavers, slippery walkways or pool decks, sandy or graveled areas that are hard to maneuver, and cords or cables that stretch across walkways. You can improve your loved one’s safety by:
- Making sure they have an up-to-date glasses prescription
- Making sure their hearing aids are functioning properly
- Keeping any assistive walking devices well-maintained
- Ensuring that all yards, patio areas, and hallways are well-lit and free from obstacles
- Confirming that all stairs have safety railings
- Making sure your loved one has safe, comfortable, well-fitting shoes
Schedule a Home Safety Evaluation
If your loved one is living at home, you can schedule a free home safety evaluation to make sure their home isn’t dangerous. A home safety evaluation can protect your loved one if they:
- Live alone
- Have limited mobility or a recent injury that affects their balance or mobility
- Are at an increased risk of injury due to osteoporosis or another health condition
- Have fallen in the past or had close calls
- Have trip hazards inside or outside their home
Falls are particularly dangerous for seniors, as an injury like a broken bone or laceration can quickly become more serious for someone who is already in poor health.
In the summer, falls are even more dangerous if they happen outside, or if they prevent your loved one from having access to water or medication. During a home safety evaluation, the evaluator will investigate the inside and outside of your loved one’s home to look for:
- Poor lighting conditions
- Trip hazards
- Rough or uneven walkways, pathways, or flooring
- Missing or broken safety railings or grab bars
- Obstructions in walking paths
- Safety issues
Get Assistance With In-Home Care in Tucson, AZ
If you need assistance protecting your loved one from summer risks, consider in-home care in Tucson, AZ. At Placita In Home Care, we have been providing comprehensive, compassionate senior care in Tucson and Phoenix since 2017. We offer varying levels of customizable care options to keep our clients safe, happy, and healthy.
Our caregivers are highly skilled and trained, and carefully screened. We assist with medication management, meal planning and preparation, companionship and activities, personal grooming, and more. Call us today or fill out our contact form online to learn more.