Summer is fun, but it also can be fraught with dangers for senior loved ones. Due to the way the body changes and reacts as we get older, seniors become more susceptible to things like heatstroke, dehydration, sunburns and other summertime-related issues. At the same time, summer is filled with many opportunities for your senior loved one to stay healthy, like physical activity (biking, gardening, walking) and delicious, healthy food choices, just to name a few things. So, it’s important for caregivers to carefully plan activities and always keep summer safety in mind.
“Keeping older adults safe is relatively easy, since most of it is common sense,” says Lauren Kessler, Executive Administrator of Bartley Healthcare. “All it takes is a little preparation, and you can easily have an enjoyable, accident-free summer.”
Lauren says that keeping summer enjoyable for the residents at Bartley Healthcare is the primary goal for her and her team. “We are able to care for our assisted living residents and help them avoid the summer heat and stay safe. We’re also able to help them with tasks of daily living, as well as getting them to and from enjoyable summer activities like picnics, festivals and other events. We have everything available to help them stay safe and enjoy themselves to the fullest.”
Whether you’re a caregiver to a senior loved one or are a senior yourself, here is an easy summer checklist to help you remain happy, healthy and safe while being active during the summer months.
- Always check the forecast.
This may sound simple and obvious, but it can be a huge difference in your enjoyment of a day. Since so many summer activities take place outside, you’ll want to know how to prepare (or whether to reschedule to a better day). If it’s gray and the forecast calls for rain, you may want to hold your scheduled picnic indoors. Or if a heat wave is on approach, you may rethink going for a walk in the afternoon. A little step like monitoring the weather can help avoid huge problems later on.
- Invest in good sunglasses.
You can buy sunglasses just about anywhere these days. But instead of grabbing the first pair you see, consider both form and function in order to protect your eyes. Older adults should look for options with larger lenses, and maybe even ones that wrap around in order to protect eyes from all sides. Most importantly, you’ll want to make sure you’re choosing sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays. Don’t forget that, even on a cloudy day, the sun is shining, so be sure to wear your sunglasses whenever you’re outside.
- Bring an umbrella.
When you’re going to an outdoor event, you may want to take an umbrella with you, even if it’s not going to rain. An umbrella is a great accessory for keeping the sun off yourself, which can be nice if you end up in a place where there’s very little shade.
- Stay hydrated.
Staying hydrated is the biggest thing you or your loved one can do to stay safe this summer. Being out in the heat is dehydrating for anyone, and seniors often lose the ability to judge when they are thirsty or need to drink. Always carry a bottle of water with you in a bag or the car, and make sure you or your loved one drinks from it regularly. If plain water isn’t something you enjoy, consider infusing it with fresh fruit or look for decaffeinated and low-sugar options like iced teas or even popsicles.
- Dress appropriately.
You may think that the best choice of clothing for summer is tank tops and shorts. That may or may not be correct, because sometimes wearing more clothes during the summer is better. Long sleeves and pants can help shield sensitive skin from the sun and actually be quite cool, as long as you’re wearing the right type of clothing. Choose light-colored, natural fabrics like linen or cotton to allow for breathability and comfort. And don’t forget about footwear – make sure that your shoes are comfortable and provide proper support, even if they are sandals.
- Store medications safely.
As we age, we end up taking more and more medications in order to stay healthy. Some medications, however, need to be stored below certain temperatures in order to remain effective and safe. Be sure to check your or your loved one’s medication to make sure everything is stored properly. It’s always smart to err on the side of cooler rather than warmer. While you’re checking storage requirements, be sure to look at side effects, too – some medicines can cause seniors to become more sensitive to heat. If you find this is the case, consider speaking with your or your loved one’s physician.
- Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Since seniors are so susceptible to heat, they can quickly become overheated and experience heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Be sure to know the signs and symptoms so you can react quickly before the situation becomes life-threatening. The symptoms of heat exhaustion are:
- Profuse sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
Heatstroke can quickly occur if heat exhaustion isn’t treated. If you or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms, call 911.
- Stops sweating
- Has dry or flushed skin
- Is breathing heavily
- Has a rapid pulse
- Is disoriented or experiencing sudden personality changes
- Always carry emergency numbers.
Obviously, you want to carry your cell phone with you, as you never know when you might need to phone for help. Although you have emergency contacts programmed in your phone, it’s good to have an old-fashioned backup – a piece of paper or a small card with all the important information on it. If your senior loved one is experiencing memory issues like dementia, you might want to consider an ID tag or bracelet so that, if you somehow get separated, they will be able to get help.
- Have your HVAC serviced.
If you haven’t already done so, have someone come out and make sure your air conditioner is working properly. That way, you won’t be inconvenienced by yours breaking down during a big heat wave. At the same time, make sure you have plenty of fans available to help circulate air around, which can quickly make a room (and a person) feel cooler.
- Wear bug spray.
Summer nights outside are blissful, but biting bugs can quickly make an event turn sour. Wear bug spray when necessary to avoid nasty beasties (and also reduce your risk of insect-borne illnesses like Lyme disease). At night, light citronella candles or have fans on to stir the air – mosquitoes aren’t able to fly in anything above a weak breeze.
Empowering Lifestyle. Trusted Care.
The Orchards at Bartley Assisted Living is our assisted living community conveniently located on the Bartley Healthcare campus.
At The Orchards at Bartley Assisted Living, residents can embrace a fulfilling, independent lifestyle in an elegant setting while experiencing the security and comfort of a qualified, compassionate team. We take care of it all – housekeeping and delicious dining, scheduled transportation, programming to meet varying interests and more.
And if your care needs change down the road, we offer our Cedar Spring Memory Care program, as well as transitional care and respite stays featuring our Step By Step program and Bartley at Home home care services.
For more information or to schedule a tour, contact our team today at 732-372-4055.