Keeping Seniors Cool in the Midst of Summer Heat

The heat of the South, particularly in Louisiana and many gulf state regions, experience a double whammy in the summer with both the heat and humidity. For our aging relatives and frail senior population, the weather poses an extra dangerous element. Just a few minutes in the heat can wipe out an elderly person and can lead to serious illness, dehydration, or death.

The reasons why heat impacts the elderly more so than a healthy, younger adult often go unforgotten, but as their immune system becomes more depleted and frail, so too, is a senior’s ability to withstand the heat and humid conditions of summer. Sometimes their internal sweating mechanisms no longer cool down their bodies the way a younger person’s do. With that in mind, it is vital for all caregivers of an elderly person to use caution, especially with some seniors and adults with disabilities who may not realize when their bodies are overheating. When a senior citizen-aged person says, “It’s too hot outside,” or makes some other reference to the heat, this is a warning sign that we often overlook.

Here are 15 tips for keeping the elderly cool during summer:

  • If outside, find a shady spot with a breeze
  • If the house or mobile home is too hot, take them to a movie or the library where there is air conditioning
  • If at home, remain in the coolest part of the house
  • Make sure they are properly dressed with a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and lightweight clothing that covers up vulnerable areas
  • Schedule outdoor activities early in the morning or evening
  • Encourage drinking lots of fluids and get plenty of water, fruit like watermelon and other liquid-bearing fruits
  • Always leave a container of water nearby
  • Keep cool clothes, washcloths or cool packs handy to pat onto wrists and forehead
  • Make sure the home is properly set up with both ceiling fans and portable fans
  • Keep vents and air filters updated every three months
  • Let cool air in at night if it is safe to do so

Also, look for any warning signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. This is when the body temperature escalates to feverish condition, such as 106 degrees or more. When the body can’t cool down properly, then an elderly person might end up needing hospitalization or emergency care. Look for signs such as:

  • Feeling dizzy
  • Rapid heart rate/pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Nauseous
  • Unconsciousness or won’t wake up from a nap
  • Extremely high temperate like 102 degrees or more
  • Muscle cramps
  • Abnormal sweating
  • Feeling extra tired, weak or pale
  • Muscles twitching uncontrollably

Follow these guidelines, as well as listening to any clues the elderly person may give you. When they complain about being too hot, it may be more than just a general observation about the weather. Remember that seniors’ bodies lack the strength that normal, healthy adults have, so we have to listen carefully to their needs to avoid heading to the emergency room after it is too late.