Summer is here, and this can be a wonderful season for folks in their golden years. With so much to see and do–especially outdoors–it’s a great time for folks of all ages to get out and enjoy life. And while wonderful opportunities abound for seniors during the summer months, it’s important to remember that this weather raises a few special issues and concerns as well. So if you are caring for seniors in the summer (or you’re in your senior years yourself!) here are a few tips, tricks, and ideas to help you safely get the most out of the summer months.
As we age, there are many changes that take place in our bodies. These include big changes in some of the ways the human body responds to heat and sun. While hydration is important for all of us when we’re active and outdoors in hot weather, it’s doubly vital for seniors. Staying hydrated is a full-time job for seniors in warm weather, and for those caring for them keeping an eye on hydration, and habits are important. Seniors don’t sweat or recognize thirst as easily as younger folks, and thus may not notice the effects of hot weather in time. So if you’re a senior or caring for seniors, make hydration a priority. Carrying a water bottle when you leave the house and hydrating at regular, timed intervals no matter where you are are two habits that can go a long way towards preventing dehydration. Staying hydrated as a senior in turn helps keep you healthy, active, and safe in the summer months.
Should the worst occur and dehydration or heat sickness set in, you’ll need to act quickly. Gatorade or Pedialyte are both great tools for dealing with dehydration, but they should be supplemented with regular water as well. Signs of dehydration in seniors may include:
- Extreme thirst or dry mouth
- Less frequent urination or sporadic urination
- Dark-colored urine
If you notice any of these signs in yourself or someone else, move them to a cooler, shadier place–inside to air conditioning is best–and supply them with hydration in a controlled and sustained way. If recovery isn’t forthcoming, a trip to the hospital may be in order.
A concern often related to dehydration is sun exposure. As with thirst and overheating, seniors are often less likely to notice that they’ve had a bit too much time in the sun. Ensuring regular and effective use of sunscreen is a must for seniors in the summer months: older skin is more susceptible to sunburns and older folks may not notice in time. Apply a sunscreen of the appropriate strength at regular interviews and make sure to cover all exposed skin, including often-forgotten areas like the back of the neck, the ears, and the face. Limiting time outside in the direct sun is a good idea for all of us when the weather is hot, but doubly so for seniors.
A final issue for seniors during a busy and active summer can be maintaining a regular schedule. With new activities and opportunities, it’s easy to forget important parts of a normal routine like scheduling meals and meds. This is where setting timers either on a watch or a smartphone can be useful. Regular alerts can serve as reminders to eat, take meds and hydrate as needed.
We hope these tips help you stay active this summer while staying safe and healthy in the warmer weather. Senior care is important, but it’s meant to augment a lifestyle, not hinder it! Taking good care and reasonable precautions during warmer weather can ensure that folks in their elder years can make the most of summertime!