When the temperature rises, older adults are at high risk for heat related illnesses. Old Colony Elder Services (OCES), a private, non-profit agency that provides seniors, families and caregivers with valuable resources and services, offers tips to help elders stay cool this summer.
· Avoid strenuous activity or over-exertion in the heat. Even household chores such as laundry, vacuuming, gardening, mowing the lawn, painting and so forth should be put off until the weather cools.
· Avoid extended periods of sun exposure. If you must be in the sun, wear a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses and bring an umbrella to create shade.
· Drink plenty of fluids. Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages.
· Eat well-balanced, light meals. Try to avoid high protein foods as they will increase metabolic heat.
· Wear lightweight, loose and light colored clothing.
· When it’s hot or very humid, stay indoors in an air-conditioned area or near a fan.
· Go to a place where you can get relief from the heat such as a library, theater or community area that has air-conditioning.
Avoid heat related illnesses
In extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation of perspiration is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain normal temperature. Heat related illnesses include heat cramps which are muscular pains and spasms in the abdominal or leg muscles caused by loss of water due to heavy sweating. To treat heat cramps – rest in a cool place and drink half a glass of cool water every fifteen minutes.
Heat exhaustion is when the body overheats in high temperatures and/or high humidity, causing a form of mild shock. A rapid pulse, intense sweating, nausea, headache, dark urine, pale and/or flushed skin and feeling faint are some of the symptoms of heat exhaustion. To treat it, get the person to a cooler place and apply cool, wet cloths to the face and body. Have the person drink cool water slowly every fifteen minutes. Watch the person carefully for signs of heat stroke.
Heatstroke occurs when the body’s temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit or above. It is severe and life-threatening. It’s typically caused by exertion in hot weather and dehydration. Some signs of heatstroke include rapid heartbeat, hot red skin, absence of sweating, dizziness, headache, nausea, irritability or confusion. Older adults may also experience fainting. If any of these symptoms are suspected, call 911 immediately. Then move the person to a cooler place, immerse in a cool bath or wrap him/her in wet sheets. Watch for breathing problems. If he/she has changes is levels of consciousness, refuses water or is vomiting, do not give him/her anything to eat or drink.
OCES has resources available to elders in their service area who meet the criteria for low income and who cannot afford fans or air-conditioning. For assistance or more information, call (508) 584-1561.
OCES serves elders, their families and caregivers in the towns of Abington, Avon, Bridgewater, Brockton, Carver, Duxbury, East Bridgewater, Easton, Halifax, Hanover, Hanson, Kingston, Lakeville, Marshfield, Middleboro, Pembroke, Plymouth, Plympton, Rockland, Stoughton, Wareham, West Bridgewater and Whitman.
For more information about services for seniors or if you know an elderly person (e.g., family, friend, neighbor) who you think might need assistance, contact OCES at 508-584-1561.
Incorporated in 1974, Old Colony Elder Services (OCES) is one of 27 private, non-profit Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs) in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The organization’s mission is to provide services that support the dignity and independence of elders by helping them maximize their quality of life; live safely and in good health; and, prevent unnecessary or premature institutionalization.
The agency has 130 employees and operates more than 12 programs serving elders, their families and caregivers. For more information call (508) 584-1561 or visit the website at www.oldcolonyelderservices.org.