Because of the changes in seniors’ bodies as they age, they become less able to regulate their body temperature and have a harder time adjusting to rapid changes in heat. As a result of their lessened ability to adjust to higher temperatures, it is essential to know the first signs of heat stress and what you can do to protect your loved one or yourself from heat-related illnesses.
According to Ryan Carney, Executive Director at Travanse Living™ at Wheaton, an Assisted Living community in Wheaton, IL, seniors can be prone to heat stress for a number of reasons. “Seniors not only naturally have a harder time adjusting to warmer temperatures, but there are also other factors working against them,” says Ryan. “Many seniors take a number of medications for health issues that make the risk for temperature-related stress higher than in others. Certain diseases such as heart or kidney disease, high blood pressure and low blood circulation can make the risks higher as well. If you or a loved one work outside in the heat a lot, it’s important to talk to your doctor to see what can be done to lower your risk of heat stress.
Heat Stress Types & the Symptoms to Look For
Seniors ages 65 and older are susceptible to two major types of heat stress, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These include heat exhaustion and stroke. Both of these forms of heat stress vary in their level of severity, signs and symptoms. In order to protect seniors who are at risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke, it is important to know what signs to be on the lookout for and what actions to take in the case of a heat stress emergency.
The mildest form of heat-related illness, according to the article by the CDC is heat exhaustion. This form of heat stress can develop after prolonged exposure to high temperatures. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
Cold and clammy skin
Weakness and fainting
Nausea or vomiting
A fast but weak pulse
Muscle cramps and headaches
Fast and shallow breathing
If you suspect that you or a loved one are in the beginning to feel the effects of heat exhaustion, there are many things that can be done in order to prevent further, more serious illness. Move yourself or a loved one to a cooler location, most preferably an air-conditioned area, if possible. Lay down, relax and sip some water. Apply cool, wet cloths to the skin or try taking a cold bath or shower to help cool down and return body temperature back to normal. If vomiting occurs and continues, call the doctor immediately.
A severe, life-threatening medical emergency, heat strokes should never be taken lightly. According to the CDC, this type of stress occurs when the body is no longer able to control its temperature through sweating. The body’s temperature is able to rise to extremes of 106 degrees fahrenheit within 10 to 15 minutes, and if it does, it is highly possible that death or permanent disability could occur if not treated immediately. Signs of heat stroke include:
High body temperature of 103 degrees or over
Lack of sweating
Red, hot and dry skin
If you believe that you or a loved one is suffering from a heat stroke, call 911 immediately and take action to prevent further damage by moving to a cooler environment with air conditioning in order to reduce body temperature. With heat exhaustion, a cool bath or placing cool cloths over the skin can also help. Do not drink any fluids and remain with anyone suffering a heat stroke until help arrives.
Tips for Preventing and Protecting Against Heat Stress
In order to protect yourself or your loved one from health issues due to temperature, it is important to know what to do to prevent heat-related illnesses and how to help others protect themselves from it. Try some of the following tips to help prevent a life-threatening emergency.
Drink plenty of fluids. When sweating, your body loses water. To avoid dehydration, replenish the water you are losing by drinking plenty of water, even if you think you are not thirsty. Stay away from alcohol and sugary drinks such as soda, and try not to drink coffee and highly caffeinated beverages, as they raise body temperature and dehydrate the body quickly.
Stay in a cool area. Try to stay in your house in the air conditioning. If you or a loved one do not have air conditioning, find a public place that provides it, such as the mall. Stay indoors during the hottest hours of the day and avoid cooking with the stove or oven, as they raise the temperature in the home. Keep the curtains drawn and if it gets too hot and you have access to a basement, take some time to relax down there.
Save strenuous outdoor activity for cooler times. When temperatures and humidity are high, it is best to not do any strenuous activity outside. If you must do work outside or exercise, try to do it early in the morning or later in the evening as the temperatures are cooler. If you must go outside in hotter temperatures, be sure to wear loose, lightweight and light-colored clothes, put on sunscreen and stay in the shade as much as possible.
When the weather gets hotter and heat advisories come out, be sure to check in on your neighbors every once in awhile and have them do the same for you. If someone you know does not have access to air conditioning or is in an unsafe area and could be at risk for heat stress, see if they’d like to go somewhere with you that does. This kindness could be the difference between a life-threatening situation and avoiding an emergency.
Experience Life. Uplifted! at Travanse Living™ at Wheaton
Now open and accepting residents, Travanse Living™ at Wheaton offers Assisted Living and Enlight Memory Care services to individuals in the area. Travanse Living™ communities offer the best of both worlds – the dignity, comfort and peace of private apartment suites as well as spacious and abundant social areas – both inside and outside. Our beautiful communities, rich in care, services and amenities, are complemented by our life-enriching and diverse programming.
Travanse Living is more than a warm, welcoming and supportive place to call home. It is an engaging, worry-free lifestyle for individuals needing senior living services or memory care. After all, while you may need a bit of support to remain living independently, your desire to live a full, active and meaningful lifestyle hasn’t changed one bit.
To ensure quality in every aspect of the community, we turned to Pathway to Living™ to operate and manage Travanse Living. Award-winning VIVA!SM programming by Pathway to Living™ keeps residents active and engaged within our community. We encourage our residents to remain active – physically, intellectually and spiritually – living a life filled with purpose, meaning and fulfillment.