Heat can take a toll on seniors

Family caregivers should keep a close eye on elderly during heat wave

Nobody likes extreme and prolonged heat, but such conditions can be deadly for seniors.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), heat is the No. 1 weather-related killer in the United States. On average, excessive heat claims more lives each year than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and lightning combined.

“The elderly are often the most vulnerable to severe heat,” said Jeff Huber, president of Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care network. “Their bodies do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature; they are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat; and they are often on a prescription medicine that impairs the body’s ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibits perspiration.”

If you are a senior or caring for an elderly individual, the following tips, from Home Instead Senior Care office will help them combat the heat:

• Keep a glass of water in every room to quickly and easily access fluids. Drink plenty of fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

• Go through the closet and remove all heavy materials, long sleeves and dark colors. Store them until fall.

• Set fashion trends. If you’re in need of new clothes, check out the latest fashion magazines.

Look for short sleeves, lightweight rayons or cottons, and light-colored clothing that reflect the heat.

• Stay out of the sun during the hottest times of the day. Fill up your bird feeder in the morning, and water the lawn at night. Sunburn makes the job of heat dissipation that much more difficult.

• Put down that broom! Save household chores, particularly washing and drying clothes and operating the dishwasher, for evenings, when the weather is cooler.

• Take a nap during high heat times – between 3 and 5 p.m. in the afternoon, for instance – or find a good television program or movie to watch.

• While you’re napping or enjoying a movie, keep shades down and blinds pulled. Keeping a house tightly closed is more energy efficient.

• Invite your friends over for an iced tea break. Replace coffee breaks with iced tea or lemonade breaks in an air-conditioned spot – not the patio. Staying in an air-conditioned dwelling during hot days is safer.

• Go on a shopping spree. If you don’t have an air conditioner, or if yours is broken, spend the afternoon at the mall. You can shop or just enjoy cool drinks and a good book.

• Put away that meat loaf recipe for the summer and track down new recipes for fruit and vegetable salads. Foods like proteins that increase metabolic heat production also increase water loss.

• If increased use of a central air conditioning system causes higher utility bills that are a problem for your budget, consider purchasing a fan or small window unit that can cool down a home at a lower cost. In fact, window fans provide an effective way to exhaust the day’s hot air during the night.

For more information about the heat, visit the National Weather Service website at http://www.noaa.gov and the Federal Emergency Management Agency website at www.fema.gov. Or, to learn more about Home Instead Senior Care, log on to www.homeinstead.com.

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