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A “HOT” Topic for Aging Parents and Elderly Clients

August 2, 2012

We’re past the half-way mark for summer. In my part of the country we had a mild winter, but it dragged on through spring then blossomed into a hot, dry summer. Other areas of the country had an early, dry spring followed by an early, hot, drought-ridden summer. With August and September remaining as the second half of the summer I want to remind you of the importance of keeping your aging parents and elderly clients comfortable and safe.

For many seniors the thirst reflex decreases with age. Sometimes the desire to eat also decreases. Unfortunately, this can lead to rapid dehydration and frequent (and preventable urinary tract infections known as UTIs) during hot weather. The simple solution is increased consumption of fluids, but that may be easier said than done.

Hear are some easy ways to increase hydration:

Add am extra 1/8 or 1/4 cup of liquid to the glass when they take their scheduled medications.

Add foods to each meal that are high in water content (watermelon, celery, lettuce, spinach, radishes, jicama, other melons).

Offer popsicles as snacks (make your own from crushed pineapple or berries mixed with 100% fruit juice–much healthier than store-bought pops).

Offer small glasses of chilled beverages multiple times each day.

Other ways to remain cool involve the skin. Keep seniors out of the direct sun , especially during the hottest part of the day. If they do go outdoors be sure to have them wear light clothing that allows air to circulate over the skin, but prevents sunburn. Light colored clothing is best in cotton or other natural fibers. If traveling in an air-conditioned vehicle or sitting in a room with air conditioning be sure a light weight sweater is available to prevent chill, but remove it before going outdoors into warm temperatures.

When sitting outside seek a shaded area. Use water to soak bare feet, spray from a spray bottle, or to rinse a bandana or neckerchief to drape over the neck. Hamds feet, neck, and elbows are a great place to apply cool and wet cloths since they have large arteries and veins that will assist in cooling an overheated person.  Avoid heavy lotions on hands, arms, and legs during the summer. These can trap heat on the skin if the person is already warm. Save lotion for evening application after a tepid bath or shower just before bedtime. Keep long hair pinned up off the neck and provide a hat to shade the face in the event your parent or client needs to be in the sun.  Sunglasses not only cut glare but also help protect against eye strain, cataracts, and other damage to the eyes.

When indoors use fans to circulate air, but don’t have the air blowing directly on a person since this can dehydrate the skin further and also blow dust or dirt around increasing allergic reactions.

Be on the lookout for dry skin, increased odor with urination, unusual constipation, dark urine, dizziness, and changes in blood pressure or heart rate. These are early warning signs of dehydration. If you notice any of these symptoms let a medical provider know and seek their advice.  Enjoy the rest of the summer and keep yourself, your parents, and your clients safe and comfortable!

What do you do to “beat the heat?” Feel free to leave comments–I love hearing from you.

 

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