- Talk to Your Pharmacist
It’s important to talk to your healthcare team about your medication. Some can become less effective when stored in areas above room temperature (23 °C or 73.4 °F). Also, be sure to ask about side effects some medication can make you more sensitive to the sun. The last thing anyone wants is a preventable medical condition to arise because of high temperatures or manageable side effects.
- Stay Hydrated
We lose our ability to conserve water as we age, this is why seniors are more susceptible to dehydration than younger people. Seniors sometimes become less aware of their thirst and often have difficulty adjusting to temperature changes. It’s important to drink water often, and be sure to carry some when going out. It’s also a good idea for seniors to drink sweat replacement products that contain salt and potassium (such as Gatorade) to replace water they lose during the summer.
- Dress for the Weather
When it's warm out, many people find natural fabrics (such as cotton) to be cooler and more breathable than synthetic fibers. Stock your summer wardrobe with light-colored and loose-fitting clothes to help feel cooler and more comfortable.
- Protect your Eyes
Too much exposure to the sun can irritate eyes and cause damage to already sensitive eyes. Wearing sunglasses can protect your eyes from harmful UV rays and preserve your vision.
- Don’t Forget the Sunscreen and Hat
Everyone, young and old, should wear sunscreen when outdoors! Seniors especially need the extra sun protection to help keep them healthy. Caregivers, family and friends please gently reminding loved ones about applying sunscreen and helping to put it on when necessary. Hats are also a really great idea, they add more sun protection to our fair or thinning haired loved ones. Plus they are super stylish!
- Keep Cool
If your home is not air-conditioned: community centres, shopping malls, movie theaters and libraries can provide a welcome cool space. They also are a great opportunity to get out of the house and get some exercise without the exhaustion of the heat.
- Warning Signs of Hyperthermia
During the summer, be particularly cautious about abnormally high body temperatures — a condition known as hyperthermia. Heat stroke is an advanced form of hyperthermia that can be life-threatening. Make sure to know the warning signs and get medical attention immediately if you or anyone you know is experiencing these symptoms:
- Body temperature greater than 40°C (104°F)
- A change in behavior, such as acting confused, agitated or grouchy
- Dry, flushed skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Heavy breathing or a rapid pulse
- Not sweating, even if it's hot out
"Elderly individuals have a harder time knowing when they are dehydrated and their bodies have more difficulty regulating their temperatures," says Dr. Ronan Factora, of the Cleveland Clinic says. "As a result, they are more prone to heat stroke." If you (or an elderly loved one) start to feel any of these symptoms, ask for medical help and get out of the heat, lie down and place ice packs on your body.
- Know your Neighbours
Get in touch with those who live in your neighbourhood and learn a bit about them and their schedules. Maybe ask a younger neighbor — perhaps even one of their kids — to come by and check on you occasionally to make sure everything is alright. The extra company and friendship is just a little added bonus!
- Stay in Touch
High temperatures can be life-threatening, so communication plays an very important role in ensuring the safety of aging adults. Seniors should let friends and family know if they'll be spending an extended period of time outdoors, even if they're only gardening. Caregivers please check on the health and welfare of their loved ones at least a couple times a day when temperatures are high.
- Keep the Bugs Off
Even though the risk of becoming infected with West Nile Virus in Toronto is low, seniors can be sensitive to the virus so it is important they take precautions. If you spend a lot of time outdoors (particularly at night), use mosquito repellent to help reduce the risk of getting bitten by a mosquito carrying a virus.
- All About Time
In the summertime with its long sunny days it’s easy to lose track of time, but it's extremely important to keep track of how much time you're spending outside. Don't stay out for extended periods and make sure to keep drinking water. Also, if you like exercise such as walking or gardening, consider getting outdoors earlier in the morning or later in the evening, when the sun is not at its peak.
Have a wonderful and safe summer!