When taking care of our loved ones, we can’t forget our senior family members.
This is especially true when temperatures are extremely cold or hot in winter or summer, like the recent heat wave where outdoor thermometers in the Abingtons registered 90 degrees plus for several days, but residents felt like temperatures were over 100.
And summer isn’t over yet.
Older people are especially sensitive to the heat. Many are living with medical conditions and take prescription medicines that affect the way their bodies handle the stress of extreme temperature. But even seniors who are in good health and have an active lifestyle can suffer the consequences of the heat, from general weakness and dizziness to dehydration and severe cases of heat stroke.
Personally, I know of two people who ended up in the hospital this summer due to the heat. And I know there are more.
Some of our senior parents, grandparents and other older family members can manage well on their own, but most need our help when it is blistering outside. If they are living with us, it is easier to look after them, but if they are still in their own home, we should make it a point to check in on them.
Hopefully there will be nothing to worry about. Even if they are well, it is better for them – and us – to have peace of mind. But if they need our help or medical care we can get it for them as soon as possible.
When we’re looking in on our elderly loved ones, however, it is important to remember their pride. Chances are, they value their independence and don’t want to feel like they are being babied. Treat them with respect as you care for them.
Preventative medicine is always the best medicine. As with you and your younger family members, your senior family members should stay inside and avoid strenuous activity during extreme heat.
Here are some great tips for seniors to stay cool at home from dailycaring.com:
■ Drink plenty of cool water throughout the day (don’t wait until they feel thirsty) and avoid alcohol and caffeine.
■ Eat cooling snacks like homemade popsicles (use a cupcake liner to catch drips), frozen peas, or slightly frozen grapes.
■ Eat light, cold meals like chicken or pasta salad instead of heavy, hot dishes like pot roast.
■ Place a cool washcloth on the back of the neck and a pan of cool water close by to periodically re-cool the towel.
■ Sit with feet in a pan of cool (but not too cold) water.
■ Keep the house as cool as possible by keeping shades closed during the hottest part of the day and using inexpensive solar curtains.
■ Wear layers of lightweight clothing in light-colored cotton so it’s easy to adjust to the temperature throughout the day by removing or adding layers.
■ Take a cool shower, bath or washcloth wipe-down. For maximum cooling, keep the water just below body temperature.
■ Cover up with a flexible ice blanket – always use a towel to protect fragile senior skin from direct contact with the ice.
Teri Lyon is a mom, grandmom and freelance writer who lives in Glenburn Township with her cat.