Every year as summer approaches, heat waves begin to threaten the country on all sides, and few US states are immune to the blistering heat. In states like Florida and Texas, this threat might seem obvious. However, even here in Colorado, we can experience high temperatures.
Unfortunately, older people are more vulnerable to this change in the weather, and that puts them at risk for a variety of harmful conditions. If you have aging parents or close family friends who are getting on in years, you want to keep the elderly people in your life safe during this season.
In this latest HomeSmart blog, you'll find out why heat waves can prove dangerous and what you can do to help your loved ones stay cool.
Why Heat Waves Are Dangerous to Senior Citizens
Even if you know heat waves are potentially threatening to senior citizens, you might never have heard your parent or loved one complain about the temperature. Perhaps he or she feels immune to the heat. But the high temperatures are still hazardous.
Senior Citizens Often Don't Know They're in Danger
Many elderly people suffer from various physical ailments. Many of these illnesses or conditions require pain medication, tranquilizers, or muscle relaxers. While these medications work to keep your parent or loved one comfortable, they can also prevent him or her from noticing discomfort.
If medications mask your loved one’s senses, he or she might not realize the heat has affected them until they become quite sick. Heat stroke can prove fatal for the elderly, so it’s important that they realize when it’s too hot.
Senior Citizens Often Can't Afford Utilities
Some senior citizens know the weather is uncomfortable but cannot afford to cool their houses or apartments. Many elderly people live on fixed incomes or social security payments, and air conditioning can seem like an unnecessary expense. Many older people will open the windows, turn off the A/C, and hope for the best.
Senior Citizens Often Have Physical Limitations
High temperatures can prove hard for older people to handle because of physical conditions, many related to aging. Elderly people usually have poorer circulation than younger ones, and they sometimes don't sweat properly. Conditions such as diabetes and heart disease can make older people even more susceptible to negative effects from heat waves.
How to Help Senior Citizens Stay Cool
Fortunately, you can do a variety of things to help your parent or loved one keep cool and comfortable.
Install an Air Conditioner
If your parent or loved one doesn't have an air conditioner, have one installed from HomeSmart. Evaporative coolers, also called swamp coolers, don't cool as effectively as central air. They can also prove more difficult for an older person to control and manage. You can call HomeSmart and arrange for one of our home comfort specialists to provide your loved one with a FREE cooling estimate.
A central machine, a portable air conditioner, or even a window unit can prove vital to your loved one’s comfort and health. Choose an energy-efficient model to help keep utility bills low. (HomeSmart offers many models with various manufacturer and Xcel Energy rebates).
If your loved one already has an air conditioning system, call HomeSmart to schedule a precision tune-up and safety inspection so it runs properly during the hot weather.
Help Senior Citizens Dress Appropriately
Many elderly people dress inappropriately for the weather. You might notice your parent or loved one wears hats, thermal clothing, or long sleeves even though it's100 degrees outside. This can be in part because your loved one doesn't feel the heat, or it may be the result of conditions like dementia that prevent your loved one from making rational decisions.
Make sure your parent or loved one dresses in cool, light layers.
Introduce Cooling Techniques
If your parent or loved one feels concerned about the cost of air conditioning, you can help him or her use other cooling techniques to help cut down on use. Invest in blackout curtains that can block the sun and keep the house cool. You can also keep the windows and curtains closed during the day, then open them at night when the temperature drops. Close them again just before the sun comes up so everyone can enjoy the cool night air.
Pay Attention to Complaints
Don't write off your parent or loved one if he or she complains about the temperature. Pay attention to his or her concerns and note any concerning symptoms. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Lightheadedness and fainting
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
Supply your parent or loved one with plenty of water and cooling beverages. Encourage him or her to drink often throughout the day and stay well-hydrated. Elderly people are often at risk for dehydration, and drinking enough fluids can help your loved one stay healthy through a heat wave.
Although the summer sun can pose a threat to senior citizens, you can prevent negative consequences with some simple steps.
Use this information to keep your loved ones safe in the summer.