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Starting the Dialogue with Your Aging Parents: Tips for Summer

June 24, 2013

Summer has finally arrived in most places within the Northern Hemisphere. With the official start of summer at the end of last week I thought I’d remind everyone of precautions needed during the warm weather to keep our aging parents and elderly clients comfortable and healthy.

First Tip: Hydration

I’m sure you’ve heard it before, maybe even read it on this blog site, but I’m going to repeat it again because it is vitally important. Make sure everyone, not just seniors, stays well hydrated.

The issue with hydration for senior citizens though is that many of them no longer have a thirst indicator. Since they don’t feel thirsty many individuals feel they don’t have to drink. Wrong! Regardless of a desire to drink, or a lack of one, we each need a certain amount of liquid (preferably water) to get through each day.

If the idea of drinking 1-2 quarts of water a day isn’t appealing then add some flavor to it with a squeeze of lemon or lime, a packet of Crustal Light or some mint sprigs. Eating watermelon or other foods high in water content (celery, lettuce, cucumbers) will also assist with proper hydration.

Keeping cool also assists with proper hydration. There are many ingenious ways to do this. Here are a few ideas:

  • Wear light-colored clothing
  • While sitting outside soak feet in cool or tepid water
  • Wear a cooling cloth fastened lightly around the neck or over the hair
  • As a snack have a cooling popsicle
  • When drinking water use ice cubes made from fruit or vegetable juice for added flavor without extensive calories
  • Have a spray bottle handy and frequently spritz it especially on exposed skin

Second Tip: Let’s Talk Bugs

Most people enjoy spending time outside during the summer months. This is also the time when the bugs are most active. Take precautions to prevent ticks and mosquitoes.  Areas where there is water attract these disease carrying insects more than drier climates.

I don’t like putting chemicals or heavy lotions on my skin for protection from insects but I have found a natural way that repels them. I mix 15-20 drops of each of the following essential oils in 2 cups of water and spray it on my skin and clothes every time I go outside. Peppermint oil, Lavender oil, Lemongrass oil, Eucalyptus oil and Citronella oil. The oils keep my skin from drying out while working as a natural repellant and they do not stain clothing.

This spray is also good for use on dogs and cats. I spray it on my dog’s leash and collar before we head out for walks. She doesn’t like to be sprayed herself so I put some on a rag and rub her down with it. Remember, this is not something that will kill insects it just repels them. In tick country remember to wear long sleeves and tuck pants into boots or socks.

After hiking it is always good to do a full body check to be sure there are no ticks (or other bugs) attached to the skin. Shake clothes and inspect carefully before putting in the laundry hamper.

If your parents live in the dryer southwest they may have to contend with scorpions , stinging beetles, and an array of spiders. Brushing off outdoor furniture before sitting down, glue traps, and sweeping up all food crumbs are first line defenses against these types of insects.

Remind parents that spiders (especially black widows) like to hide out in dark spaces so to be careful when reaching in around hose couplings or outdoor faucets. Another potential place for the nastier bugs is the tool shed. Wearing gloves is a good line of defense when doing outside chores, gardening, or poking around the dark reaches of the tool shed, garage or workshop.

Third Tip: Skin Protection

We all know how exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer and sunburn, but sometimes the temptation to go out without skin protection is very strong. Our aging parents and elderly clients are at higher risk of sunburn and melanoma because their skin is often thinner and less elastic than when they were younger.

Sunscreen is often full of chemicals although there are some natural skin protectants out there but they are spendy. If you can combine a good skin moisturizer with protection from the UV rays all the better. Lotions and creams do not need to be the only line of defense.

There is now clothing made specifically to block UV rays. It can usually be found in Sporting Good stores or travel clothing catalogs. Wearing light-colored clothing, even without the UV protection, helps deflect the sun’s rays.

Fourth Tip: Recognizing Limitations

Just because your parents are aging doesn’t mean they don’t still enjoy being active. Seniors are active in all kinds of sports from kayaking to hiking, tennis to golf. This means there is lots of activity going on out there in the sun. and heat. 

Here are a few things everyone should remember while enjoying the summer fun:

  • Some medications have warnings about being out in the sun. Take this seriously and read all medication labels carefully. If there is a question ask the pharmacist.
  • Heat stroke can occur in anyone regardless of age. Know the signs and take precautions to prevent heat stroke.
  • Anyone who has had a previous bout of heat stroke is at high risk of having it again. Always take precautions.
  • If dizziness, over heating, or unusual fatigue occur while engaging in outdoor activities find a place to rest preferably out of the sun and rehydrate slowly.

Summer is a time for family, friends, outdoor adventures, and enjoying the warmer weather and sunshine. Be safe, be smart, and be sensible with yourselves and encourage the same for your aging parents or elderly clients.


Do you have additional tips you’d like to add? Feel free to share in the comments.





3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 24, 2013 4:44 pm

    All good tips Laura- especially the bug repellent “recipe” – I’m going to try that one – and the words about understanding limitations. It’s so hard to judge limitations and I often find that my parents are constantly testing the boundaries. For example, the town cut some trees on my parents property line and said they would come and get the wood. Apparently not fast enough for Dahlia though- she told me her garbage was sort of heavy today. (My sister and I take turns brining their weekly trash to the curb). When she told me there was bark in there, I asked her if she now had decided to become a lumber jack. Thankfully she did not get hurt. But my mother performs these tests often, as saying she can’t do something anymore is apparently a failure on her part. Not so, of course, but then I’m not the one being told not to do yardwork at almost 89! The fun continues always, but I will certainly keep all of your guidelines in mind this summer- it’s roasting up here in RI already!

    Stay Cool!

    • June 24, 2013 5:17 pm

      I know all of this with aging parents is challenging. Unfortunately, the more your parents are told they can’t do something the harder they will push back. Safety is the biggest priority we face for our parents. Trying to keep them safe, but at the same time trying not to incite them is difficult.

      One suggestion I would have would be to see if there are any Geriatric Care Managers in your area. If there are meet with one and let them negotiate various promises from your parents in terms of limitations on physical activities such as yard work. Actually, raking, sweeping, picking up twigs or bark (as long as it’s not too heavy) isn’t necessarily dangerous for your parents regardless of age. Taking a chain saw to a large downed tree would be out of the question, but simple tasks done with light loads don’t necessarily have to be off limits.

      Your mom tests the boundaries because she feels constricted and feels she has no control over her own life. It’s a delicate balance keeping them safe, but also letting them have some control over their activities and daily life. You know the quote, “I will not go quietly into that dark night.” This is kind of the same thing, but she’s saying “I will not go easily into old age.” Try to see if there is something she can take control of. I’m happy to help in any way if you need it.

      Take care, and yes, the heat is on. It’s actually cold and drizzly here today, but it’s supposed to be 96 degrees by Friday. UGH!!! I was in Minnesota last week and it was very humid–thunderstorms and funnel clouds with bouts of hail. Not fun. Crazy weather.

      Stay well, stay cool, and be happy.

      • June 24, 2013 5:37 pm

        Great idea Laura, I will do that. My Dad is just as bad about other things, like wanting to drive, so it takes a lot of patience, and prayers, to make sure they both stay safe and happy.

        🙂 As always, much gratitude!

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