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Heat Poses Serious Threat to Seniors Living Alone

Stay out of the sun during the hottest times of the day. Save the gardening for the early morning or evening.
Stay out of the sun during the hottest times of the day. Save the gardening for the early morning or evening.

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July 12, 2011

Beating the Heat Important to Seniors Who Want to Stay Active

Sizzling summer temperatures can take a toll on any age, but seniors are particularly vulnerable when the temperatures skyrocket. Many older adults want to enjoy summer activities as much as anyone else. A few precautions can help them do just that.

Q.My 82-year-old aunt lives alone more than 300 miles from me, her closest relative. Temperatures currently exceed 100 degrees there, and I’m worried about her safety. She is still alert and healthy, but I know she loves to go outdoors and garden. What can I do from here to protect her?

It’s important that seniors take care in the heat, but it doesn’t need to prevent them from doing the things they love. There are several reasons why seniors are more susceptible to the heat, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

  • Seniors do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature.
  • They are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that upsets normal body responses to heat.
  • They are more likely to take prescription medicines that impair the body's ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration.

Sweltering summer heat can be brutal for an individual of any age, but it may be particularly dangerous for seniors. Please suggest to your aunt that she consider the following tips for staying cool and safe:

  • Keep a glass of water in every room to quickly and easily access fluids. Drink plenty of fluids, even if she doesn’t feel thirsty.
  • Go through the closet and remove all heavy materials, long sleeves and dark colors. Store them until fall.
  • Stay out of the sun during the hottest times of the day. Fill up her bird feeder in the morning and water the lawn at night.
  • Save household chores, particularly washing and drying clothes and operating the dishwasher, for evenings, when the weather is cooler.
  • Take a nap during high heat times -- between 3 and 5 p.m., for instance -- or find a good television program or movie to watch.
  • While she’s napping or enjoying a movie, keep shades down and blinds pulled. Keeping a house tightly closed is more energy efficient.
  • Put away that meat loaf recipe for the summer and track down new recipes for fruit and vegetable salads. High-protein foods increase metabolic heat production and water loss.
  • Increased use of a central air conditioning system causes higher utility bills, so she should consider purchasing a fan or small window unit to cool the house at a lower cost. In fact, window fans provide an effective way to exhaust the day’s hot air during the night.

Being alone during steamy summer days is a risk in itself. Encourage your aunt to garden or spend time outdoors with a companion or friend. If your aunt doesn’t know anyone, call the local Home Instead Senior Care® office. The company makes every effort to match CAREGiversSM with seniors of similar interests. Someone near her own age could provide companionship during your aunt’s outdoor pursuits.

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