Generally speaking, when we think of dangers related to elderly people and the weather, we most often associate that with winter and cold snaps. And while winter absolutely poses a threat in terms of cold related illness, the potential issues surrounding summer heat and the elderly should not be ignored.
However, it’s also important to remember that summer is a time of great fun, and we certainly don’t want anyone reading this to think of those sunny months as anything other than something to look forward to. When the sun is shining, not only can it massively help lift a person’s mood, but it also makes socialising and generally getting out and about easier and more enjoyable.
Due to the UK being a fairly mild country, the issues related to hot weather certainly aren’t as commonplace as in some other countries, but that doesn’t mean that the occasional heat wave or surprisingly sunny day can’t catch us all off guard. Perhaps because we’re less used to having to deal with such extreme temperatures, we’re less accustomed to making sure that we’re safe during these times.
If we take some simple precautions to stay safe though, we can enjoy all the fun that summer provides. With that in mind, here are some of our top summer health tips for the elderly.
1. Stay hydrated
This might seem like a no-brainer but it’s so easy to forget to readjust the amount you’re drinking to reflect the change in weather. While the amount of water you are drinking each day may be perfectly adequate in winter, it may actually not be enough during the hotter months where you will be more likely to sweat. It’s therefore important to make a conscious effort to up the amount you’re drinking to keep yourself from becoming dehydrated, which can cause serious issues. Adding markers onto a water bottle can be an easy way to ensure you are consuming enough liquid throughout the day.
2. Pay attention to weather reports
While they’re not always perfect, weather reports are our best way of being able to plan ahead for the weather. This is especially important if you’re planning on leaving your home that day, which brings us to our next point…
3. Plan your trip around the cooler hours of the day
Even on days when temperatures are extremely hot, you can still avoid the worst of it by planning your activities around the weather itself. Whenever possible, plan to do outdoor activities later in the afternoon when the heat has cooled down as much as possible. If you think the weather will likely be too much for you for most of the day, then see if you can rearrange to a more suitable day instead.
4. Stay in the shade
This may seem obvious but staying in the shade as much as possible is the best way of protecting yourself from the worst of the heat while outside. For example, if you go somewhere for a drink or a bite to eat and plan to sit outside, make sure you get a table in the shade or one with a parasol. If that isn’t an option, then don’t be shy about making it clear you need to stay inside to avoid the sun.
5. Take advantage of air conditioning wherever possible
We’re completely aware that not everyone can afford air conditioning in their homes. However, there are other ways of making your home cooler, and besides, you probably won’t be expanding as much energy as when you’re out and about, so won’t be feeling as overheated. If you are planning a day out though, take the weather into account and try to go somewhere with air conditioning, at least for a portion of the day. If you’re outside in the park or for a walk for example, plan on going for a meal or coffee somewhere with good air conditioning as a rest from the heat.
6. Take steps to stay cool in your home
Obviously, the best way to do this is with air conditioning. However, for many, this simply isn’t an option. A good alternative is to keep blinds and curtains drawn. If you can’t afford air conditioning and are concerned about the summer months, shuttered blinds are a wise investment as they are shown to keep out 80% of heat.
7. Take a cool bath or shower
No matter your age, there’s few things more refreshing than taking a cold bath or shower after spending some time in the hot sun. This is particularly important if you’ve just come in from the outside to prevent the heat from becoming overwhelming. Do this when you can, even if you don’t feel like the heat is getting too much, as feeling unwell from the weather can come on very suddenly. After all, prevention is the best cure.
8. Have a talk with your doctor
One thing that people often forget about when it comes to the weather is that it can, on occasion, affect your medication. So, if you are or have in the past found yourself feeling side effects from the heat, you should always go and talk to a professional to rule out any issues beyond simply being too warm.
9. Dress appropriately
Just as we wrap up in the winter, we should apply this same logic to dressing for summer weather. Choose light, breezy clothing with a hat, appropriate shoes and shades where necessary. If you don’t own these things, then they’re a worthwhile investment as they can make you much more comfortable and ultimately, safer throughout the summer.
10. Communicate openly with those around you
It’s very important for people around you to know how you’re dealing with the weather. If you’re dehydrated or need to stop and go sit in the shade for a while, or are generally overwhelmed and need to go home, then the most important thing you can do is let someone know. A high temperature in elderly people can be serious, so don’t have any reservations about telling those around you how you are coping.
Similarly, if you are having issues with your home set up or with things like getting appropriate summer wear, the first step to solving the problem is to communicate with those who care about you. They can help to solve any issues, so you can ensure your summer is a safe and fun one.