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Summer in Chicago: Heat Safety for Seniors

Active retired seniors, two old men playing chess at park

It’s almost officially summer in Chicago, which means we should expect a few (and probably many) sweltering days. And, with the 5 hottest years on the record all falling in the last 10 years, it’s hard to know what to expect. The summer heat can be hard on us all, but particularly hard for the elderly. That’s why it’s important to keep a few tips in mind when going outside in the summertime.

The Dangers of Hot Weather for the Elderly

Heat-related illnesses, collectively known as hyperthermia, can vary from mild to severe:

Heat Syncope

This is a sudden bout of dizziness that can come from high temperatures. The elderly are more susceptible to it, so keep any eye out for any signs of dizziness, confusion, or loss of balance.

Heat Exhaustion

After extended periods in hot weather, one can experience nausea, a rapid pulse, and excessive sweating that doesn’t stop even after going to a cooler place.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke occurs when the body can no longer keep itself cool enough through sweating. Symptoms include fainting, agitation and confusion, temperature above 104F, flushed skin, and either a high or a low pulse.

 

Some Tips for Dealing with the Hot Weather and Keeping Your Loved One Safe

1. Ensure they are comfortable at home.

Believe it or not, most cases of heat stroke occur when elderly people are at home and unable to keep their home cool enough. Make sure that your loved one’s air conditioner is functional, and consider servicing it at the beginning of the season to ensure smooth operation.

While you’re at it, consider investing in a smart thermostat and connect your phone to it. You can set an alert when the temperature goes above a certain limit, if either the power goes out, or your loved one somehow turns the air conditioning off.

2. Move activities to earlier and later in the day.

On many summer days, the time between noon and 4pm is downright intolerable for anyone, let alone the elderly. While it’s important for your loved one to get some outside time, work around this central time of the day and instead schedule outdoor activities early in the morning or in the late afternoon/early evening once the temperatures have cooled off a bit.

3. Bring plenty of water.

Dehydration is a key component of heat stroke. Bring plenty of water with you when you go out with your loved one. Limit drinks with caffeine in them, which can actually cause more dehydration.

 

4. Dress for the weather.

Your loved one may not know what clothes are appropriate to wear, particularly if they are suffering from dementia. Before heading outdoors in the summertime, make sure they dress in light fabrics like cotton, linen, or permeable synthetics, and in light colors that will absorb less light.

5. Limit exertion outdoors.

When it’s hot outside, you really want to limit exertion. So, if you must be outside, focus on relaxing activities rather than any kind of exercise that is likely to take a toll on your loved one. For some elderly people, even walking for more than a few minutes counts as exertion, particularly when it’s very hot outside!

For more tips on caring for your elderly loved one suffering from dementia, explore our blog!

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