In the Dallas area, we have already had multiple days of 100+ temps with many more in our future. It’s HOT! Now seems like a good time to discuss summer heat and how to keep seniors safe.
We all know that our bodies change as we age. Not only does our sense of thirst diminish but we also naturally have less water in our bodies. Some health conditions and medications can affect the fluids in our bodies. Blood pressure meds can flush water from the body and our kidneys may become less efficient. Many older adults actively drink less so they will not need to get up and walk to the bathroom as often. They may have pain or a fear of falling. All of these issues increase the risk of dehydration.
Mild symptoms of dehydration can easily get overlooked as people think these symptoms are related to medication side effects or natural aging.
Mild symptoms may include:
- dry mouth
- dark-colored urine
- muscle cramps
- feeling weak
- loss of balance
Serious symptoms may include:
- low blood pressure
- difficulty walking
- dry and sunken eyes
- severe cramping
Dehydration can cause serious complications, including urinary and kidney problems like urinary tract infections, kidney stones and even kidney failure. Other complications can include seizures due to low potassium and sodium levels, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Dehydration can be serious and result in hospitalization.
The good news is dehydration can be totally avoidable. Before you encourage your loved one to drink a lot of fluids, always check with their doctor to see how much fluid they recommend. Some medical conditions may require a restrictive fluid intake.
Drink plenty of cool fluids
Water is best. If someone doesn’t like plain water, add fruit slices or offer diluted juices. Even though tea and coffee are caffeinated, they can still be a good choice for fluid intake.
Eat hydrating foods
Some good suggestions are: cucumbers, watermelon, celery, zucchini and strawberries. Eat cool and lighter foods in the hotter months.
Keep shades closed during the heat of the day. Use ceiling or box fans in addition to the AC. If the AC is broken, get out of the house and go to a senior center, library or even the mall. Small personal fans are helpful. Try to stay indoors during the day as much as possible.
Wear cool, light fabrics. If feeling overheated, place a cool washcloth on the neck and place feet in cool water. Take lukewarm, not hot showers.
We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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