Summer means picnics, swimming and celebrations, and people of all ages look forward to sunny skies and lots of fun. However, summer can also mean high temperatures and dangerous heat-related illnesses, especially when there is a heat wave. Seniors are especially vulnerable to developing heat exhaustion and heatstroke during a heat wave, so family caregivers and home care services aides should take every precaution to keep elderly people cool and comfortable when the mercury rises.
What Is A Heat Wave?
A heat wave is a weather pattern of above average temperatures for a prolonged period of time. In many parts of the country, high heat is often paired with high humidity, making it extremely uncomfortable for people to bear. During a heat wave, resources are often strained, resulting in power outages that affect air conditioning, refrigeration and other necessities. Seniors and children have a harder time adjusting to higher temperatures and are the biggest risk for heat-related illnesses.
How to Prepare for a Heat Wave
Family caregivers and seniors can see whether or not a heat wave is predicted in their area by watching the local news. Meteorologists will usually be able to tell when a heat wave is approaching and how long it will last. During the heat wave, family caregivers and home care services assistants should help the elderly person make plans to be outside only if necessary and to avoid any strenuous exercise. Seniors should also avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Family caregivers and home care services assistants should also make sure elderly loved ones are dressed in loose, light-colored clothing that is lightweight and breathable.
Another thing to do to ride out a heat wave includes preparing and eating small meals more often. These should be meals that don’t require the oven, which can heat up a house or apartment. Family caregivers should also plan ahead for some meals and snacks that don’t need any electricity to prepare in case of a power outage, like peanut butter sandwiches. Seniors should avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol as they can cause dehydration. Make sure there is always plenty of water on hand and fill some extra water bottles to store for emergencies. Every home should have an emergency supply kit in case of power outages that includes flashlights, a battery-powered radio, first aid kit and more.
During the Heat Wave
When the heat wave is taking place, family caregivers, home care services aides and the elderly should keep curtains closed and fans running. If there is an air conditioner in the house, experts recommend setting it no lower than 78 degrees. Avoid running the dishwasher, washer or dryer during the day to keep the home cool as well. If the home is really hot, family caregivers and home care services assistants should consider an outing to somewhere cool, like a movie theater, library, senior center, the mall or some other public place with air conditioning. Above all, nobody should be left alone in a closed vehicle for even a few minutes during a heat wave.
With the right preparations and some know-how about how to get through a heat wave, family caregivers and their elderly loved ones will be able to get through a heat wave safely and comfortably.