The summer heat and constant sun can be uncomfortable, especially for seniors.
According to Orvell Johns, director of the Franklin County Office on Aging in Columbus; Todd Simmons, administrator at the Benjamin Rose Adult Day Program, Margaret Wagner House in Cleveland Heights; and Lori Wengerd, owner and president of Home Care Assistance Columbus in Upper Arlington, there are a few things senior should be aware of during the summer.
“It’s important to know the difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion, and knowing your limitations and try not to overdo it,” Simmons said. “An important factor is also being aware of the weather forecast for the day, especially if you’re going to be doing outside activities or exercises. Know if it will be hot or humid, or if it will rain.”
Dehydration is another thing watch for.
“When the body is not cooling off from sweat evaporation, the core temperature rises, more sweat is produced to fight higher temperatures and dehydration sets in, creating a vicious cycle that leads to more severe heat-related illness,” Johns explained. “Medications taken by older adults may affect their ability to sweat and (further) complicate the problem.”
Wengerd added, “Older adults are much more susceptible to becoming dehydrated. In the summer, it’s critical to measure how much fluid you’re drinking rather than just assume you’ll drink when you’re thirsty. Thirst is one of the last indicators of dehydration. First people feel fatigued, then perhaps have headaches. By the time we feel thirsty, we’re already dehydrated.”
Johns said seniors should drink 48 to 80 ounces of water a day, which can be obtained from simply drinking water or juice, or from fruits and vegetables.
And as nice weather becomes an everyday occurrence, people want to get outside. But prolonged sun exposure can negatively impact a senior’s health. So, if outdoor activities are planned, the professionals suggested frequent health monitoring.
“We all eagerly look forward to outdoor activities during warmer weather,” Johns noted, “To increased enjoyment of the summer and prevent heat-related illness, we urge older adults to be cautious as the temperatures rise. Older adults are encouraged to drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol. They are encouraged to avoid vigorous activity from noon to 4 p.m. Outdoor activities, such as gardening and mowing, should be reserved for cooler morning or evening hours.”
Simmons explained when left unchecked, prolonged exposure to the sun without regular hydration can cause many health issues.
“A big thing to look for is the signs of dizziness, cramping, swelling, weakness and nausea,” he said. “And again, it’s knowing the difference between exhaustion and heat stroke. Find a nice, cool place to sit down and rest. Drink water. And if that doesn’t help you feel better relatively quickly, that would be the time to seek medical attention. Other tips include clothing, you want to wear light, breathable fabric. Dressing in layers when possible is a good idea too. If you get too warm, you can always take something off.”
When it comes to spending time outside, Wengerd said it is important to be smart about it.
“Most Americans spend too much time inside, which can negatively impact our mental health,” she explained. “Watching leaves, birds and clouds can lift our spirits immensely, and hearing the sounds of summer brings back lovely memories. But, it is still important to wear the right shoes to prevent tripping, to stay off uneven surfaces, to wear sunscreen and stay hydrated.”
Simmons added if a senior is going to be exercising outside, they should avoid doing it on a full stomach or after a heavy meal.
“You want to allow some time for digestion,” he noted. “I could see that contributing to many types of related discomfort. It’s about pacing yourself. It would be a nice escape to be outdoors instead of being cooped up indoors all day. Just plan and be conscientious.”