Elderly Health in Summer Heat

Summer is on its way to Canada, and in BC we are expecting a hot one. For many of us, this may mean a summer full of adventures by the lake and basking in the sun, but for our growing senior population, unusually high temperatures can be a real health hazard and it is important to ensure that our seniors are safe and healthy as the mercury rises. If you are a caregiver for a senior, or living with your elderly parent, there are a few things that you can do to prevent any heat-related health issues:

  • Always have water available. This includes emergency water bottles (in case of a storm), extra bottles in the car, and in the bedroom to avoid dehydration at night or getting up to find water (which can lead to accidents in the dark).
  • Have your air conditioner checked twice a year, if you have one. Always have backup fans around the home.
  • Schedule outdoor activities with caution, avoiding the hottest times of the day.
  • Check that your senior loved one has light, heat-appropriate clothing, and knows to wear them.
  • If the senior you care for is prone to heat exhaustion or heat stroke for any reason, ensure that they stay properly hydrated, avoid alcohol/caffeine, and take any medication the doctor prescribes.

In addition to taking these measures to prevent heat-related illnesses, it is important that as a caregiver you recognise the warning signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. They usually include:

  • Heavy perspiration
  • Headache
  • Weakness and tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

If the senior you care for is displaying any symptoms, or complaining of over-heating, take immediate action. Cool them down quickly by immediately moving to shade or indoors, and taking a cool bath if possible. Administer hydration (no caffeine or alcohol), and seek medical attention if symptoms to not subside.

During the summer months, remember that heat exhaustion and heat stroke (life threatening) are not normal, and can be extremely hazardous to a senior. And don’t forget sunscreen for both of you!