Extreme Heat and Eldercare


July 1, 2023

Extreme Heat and Eldercare

Summertime And The Livin’ Is Easy, a well-known classic opera heard in the performance of Porgy and Bess written by DuBose Heyward and lyricist Ira Gershwin and composed by George Gershwin.

In extreme temperatures, the livin’ may not be so easy for our elderly loved ones. These are the times when vigilance is vital. Several factors must be taken into consideration when high temperatures are forecasted. In Texas, we are experiencing temperatures over 100 degrees. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are serious conditions and urgent care is critical. When outdoor conditions elevate body temperature to dangerously high levels and when the temperature elevation can be felt inside the home, attentiveness as the caregiver is required! It is important to monitor body temperature and any unusual occurrences like confusion, weakness, dry tongue, and skin changes! Loved ones who are taking essential medications that pull fluid(water) from the body, must be monitored closely in extreme temperatures.

Medication Monitoring Essentials

Medications for high blood pressure, kidney disease, liver disease, and some heart disorders can create dehydration. Not drinking enough fluids during extreme temperatures can cause life-threatening conditions. It becomes a balancing act because too much fluid intake can be problematic. Too little hydration, too much hydration…decisions-decisions!

Let me mention a few medications that your loved ones may be taking. Please, monitor their hydration status if any of these medications resonate and possibly apply to the care rendered to your elderly loved one. While I lecture a lot on eldercare, know that this information applies to anyone on medications mentioned during extreme temperatures.

Hydrochlorothiazide (Hydrodiuril, Microzide) is a medication that treats high blood pressure. It’s a diuretic that helps your kidneys remove fluid and salt from your blood through your urine.

Lasix (Furosemide) is a diuretic. Skin turgor is a good way to tell if someone is well-hydrated. If you pinch the skin (the top of the hand is a good place) and the skin does not bounce back, it’s a sign of poor hydration. Too much diuretic treatment is just as problematic as too little. Also, know furosemide can make your skin sensitive to the sun. Stay indoors during extreme temperatures.

Aldactone (Spironolactone) is a diuretic. You take it either once or twice per day. If taken two times a day, hydration is critical, but caution as well to not create another problem as fluid in the lungs, seen in heart failure.

Remember, taking any of these medications requires weighing to ensure you maintain your dry weight. Also to monitor urine output (bathroom visits). For incontinence, note the number of times diapers are changed or chucks are replaced. It is also important to know the common side effects of medications being taken by your loved ones. These may include increased urination, thirst, and dizziness. Yes, remember, being proactive is the key! Be safe! Be well!

Source: Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman is a retired registered nurse and case manager; CEO of Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate and author of From the Lens of Daughter, Nurse, and Caregiver: A Journey of Duty and Honor, and The Black Book of Important Information for Caregivers 

We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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