It’s time to get outside and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine with loved ones. If you help a senior, there are few things to keep in mind to so they can stay healthy and safe this summer.
- Hydrate. Staying hydrated is important at every age, but even more critical as we age. According to experts with the Cleveland Clinic, the body’s sense of thirst decreases with age and as a result, dehydration is a common reason for hospitalization of seniors. Typically, a senior is someone who is over age 65. Since the body has less water in it as people age, the chances of becoming dehydrated is increased. To keep someone from becoming dehydrated, make getting a drink throughout the day a fun routine by adding natural fruit flavor (or even vegetable with refreshing cucumbers) such as a squeeze of lemon or lime. Experts recommend going easy on juice as it can hide a lot of sugar so cut it 50/50 with water or limit the frequency. Also look for hydrating snacks like watermelon, strawberries, or celery to munch on while subtly improving hydration.
- Sun Protection. Yes, the sun is good for you with its vitamin D and warmth. However, it’s also dangerous, especially for older adults whose skin has become more thin or who may be taken a medication that can cause an adverse reaction to too much sun. Skin cancer is real danger and more so as people age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “older age” is one of the risk factors for skin cancer, in addition to a family history, lighter natural skin color, and certain types of moles. To keep yourself and someone else protected from the harmful sun rays, be sure to have a hat, sunglasses, and use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher (dermatologists recommend SPF 30+). You can also find shady spots to spend time outdoors in dappled sunlight rather than get full exposure.
- Exercise. Summertime is the perfect time get outside and be active. If you’re concerned about someone who is age 65 or older becoming overheated with their exercise routine, join them in changing things up to avoid being out at the hottest times of day. Consider an early walk or go just after sunset in the park, catch the sunrise on your hike, swim at an indoor pool instead, or take a class such as Tai Chi that meets indoors.
- Be cool. It doesn’t have to be in the triple digits for someone to develop hyperthermia, an umbrella term for conditions such as heat exhaustion, heat edema, heat syncope, and heat cramps. The National Institute on Aging reports that each year “the most people who die from hyperthermia are over 50.” People who have high blood pressure, are extremely overweight or underweight, and those with heart, lung, or kidney disease are also at higher risk. A heat stroke is even more worrisome and immediate medical attention will be needed if someone faints, spikes a body temperature over 104 degrees, or shows unusual behavior such as staggering in hot weather. Air conditioning is a good way to cool off, and fans can help too with staying fresh. When hydrating to cool back down, avoid alcohol and caffeine and stick to water.
Always contact the health care provider for the person you support with care if you are concerned about their wellbeing.