"Although anyone can be vulnerable to summer heat, some people are at greater risk than others,” said Charles Williams, President and General Manager of Right at Home of Ann Arbor, a senior home care company serving Metro Detroit Michigan. “Persons over age 65 particularly are at high risk for suffering a heat-related illness.”
Senior citizens are susceptible to intense heat because their bodies may be less efficient than younger adults to adequately respond to rising temperatures. Senior citizens also are more likely to have medical conditions that change normal body responses to heat, and they are more likely to take prescription medicines that weaken the body’s ability to regulate its temperature or that prevent perspiration.
An elderly person’s lifestyle also can increase the risk for developing a heat-related illness, such as heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Lifestyle factors include overdressing, lack of transportation, extremely hot living quarters and misunderstanding weather conditions. While getting outdoors to engage in summer activities is important to maintain health and wellness, seniors should be aware of heat-related illness and take steps to avoid succumbing to the effects of summer heat.
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness and occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature. When the body’s temperature rises too fast, the body loses its ability to sweat and is unable to cool down. During heat stroke, body temperatures can rise to 103° F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given. Various symptoms of heat stroke include an extremely high body temperature (above 103° F); red, hot and dry skin (no sweating); rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; and nausea.
Heat exhaustion is a milder type of heat-related illness that can develop after prolonged exposure to high temperatures and becoming dehydrated. Warning signs of heat exhaustion vary but may include the following: heavy sweating; paleness; muscle cramps; fatigue; weakness; dizziness; headache; nausea; fainting; cool, moist skin; rapid, weak pulse; and fast, shallow breathing.
Follow these tips to protect you and elderly loved ones from heat-related illness:
- Drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages; if your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or prescribes water pills for you, ask how much you should drink when the weather is hot
- Take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath
- Seek an air-conditioned environment;
- Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, cotton clothing; if outdoors, wear a hat
- Plan outdoor activities in early morning when it is cooler
Visit or check on elderly relatives, friends and neighbors who are at risk at least twice a day and watch them for signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion. If you are unable to check up on an elderly relative, consider contacting Right at Home of Ann Arbor for senior home care assistance. Trained and bonded caregivers are available to ensure that your loved one is staying cool and drinking plenty of fluids during the hot summer months. They also can transport your loved one to an air-conditioned location if necessary in order to escape extreme heat.
If you observe a person who may be suffering from heat stroke, instruct someone to call for immediate medical assistance while you begin cooling the affected person by doing the following:
- Take the person to a shady area or an air-conditioned facility
- Cool the person rapidly by any means necessary – immerse the person in a tub of cool water, place the person in a cool shower, spray the person with cool water from a garden hose or sponge the person with cool water
- Offer fluids such as water and fruit and vegetable juices, but avoid alcohol and caffeine
About Right at Home
Founded in 1995, Right at Home offers senior home care and companionship to the elderly and disabled adults who want to continue to live independently. Local Right at Home offices are independently owned and operated and directly employ and supervise all caregiving staff, each of whom is thoroughly screened, trained, bonded and insured prior to entering a client’s home. Right at Home’s global office is based in Omaha, Nebraska, with franchise offices located in 42 states nationwide and throughout the world. For more information on Right at Home, read the Right at Home caregiving blog at http://www.rightathome.net/
About Right at Home of Ann Arbor
The Ann Arbor Michigan office of Right at Home is a locally owned and operated franchise office of Right at Home, Inc., providing senior home care to the communities of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Saline, Belleville, Plymouth, Chelsea, Dearborn, Canton, Dexter, and beyond. For more information, contact Right at Home of Ann Arbor at http://www.rightathome.net/