USA’s hottest year ever has families protecting seniors who often ignore heat warnings
The first half of the year has been our country’s warmest on record as the summer heat wave continues to bake the nation. The National Climactic Data Center reports 28 states have posted their warmest first six months in history – a severe health risk for our growing local population of senior citizens who often ignore heat warnings. A study out of Kent State University shows 90 percent of respondents over the age of 65 were aware of heat warnings, but most seniors thought the messages were targeted to “older Americans” – a group to which they did not think they belonged.
That’s why Senior Helpers, one of the largest in-home senior care companies, with caregivers in our city, advises families to protect their aging relatives by assembling Senior Summer Survival Kits. These kits are an easy, inexpensive way to make sure elderly loved ones have the protection they need to stay safe and comfortable during hot summer days – especially when family members are not around.
“Seniors often won’t admit they can’t deal with extreme heat like they used to. If they have dementia or Alzheimer’s, they don’t even realize they’re thirsty, hot or dizzy. That’s why it’s absolutely vital that aging family members have the resources right at their fingertips to be healthy and safe,” says Peter Ross, CEO and co-founder of Senior Helpers, an in-home care senior company with highly trained caregivers specializing in dementia and Alzheimer’s care. “Take the time to prepare a Senior Summer Survival Kit. If you can’t be with your elderly loved one, you should hire a caregiver we call our Heat Helpers to make sure your senior drinks water, applies sunscreen and stays active and engaged indoors. This is crucial for seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s.”
What’s in the ‘Senior Summer Survival Kit?’
• Reusable water bottle to maintain hydration
• Copies of all prescriptions and health insurance cards
• Phone numbers of health care providers and information concerning chronic health problems
• Broad spectrum sunscreen, at least SPF 30, to prevent serious burns
• Multivitamins to keep the immune systems strong
• Battery operated/hand-held fan in case of power outages and extreme heat
The Senior Summer Survival Kit can be easily purchased and assembled for under $25 in less than 15 minutes.
How Senior Helpers “Heat Helpers” Work for Seniors
Senior Helpers caregivers come to the home to help with chores like cooking or yard work which can be strenuous in the heat. Heat Helpers also make sure seniors are taking proper precautions to beat the heat.
• Stay well hydrated – Caregivers remind seniors to drink water throughout the course of the day, even if they’re not particularly thirsty. As adults continue to age, the amount of water retained by the body decreases substantially.
• Maintaining a cool environment – Caregivers close blinds and curtains keeping the house cool, even in triple digit temperatures. Caregivers also have battery operated/hand-held fans readily available to keep their seniors comfortable. Most seniors are budget-conscious, so it’s important for caregivers to be sure the AC is set to a proper, cool level and it’s working. Caregivers can also be responsible to check filters once a month.
• Stay In air conditioning in the afternoon – The hottest part of the day is from 3-5 p.m. Caregivers provide inside activities like playing cards, going to movies or the mall to keep seniors active inside to avoid spending time outside during the most dangerous hours of the day.
• Eat plenty, but eat light – Caregivers prepare light food because heavy foods, like meat and cheese, tend to make the body work harder to digest, using more water and generating more body heat.
• Follow new sunscreen guidelines – Caregivers are well versed on the FDA’s newly released guidelines about sun protection. Seniors are more prone to sunburn because their bodies have less water. Caregivers educate seniors about these new regulations such as there’s no such thing as “sweat proof” or “water proof” sunscreen. Or that you must re-apply sunscreen every two hours for it to work effectively (new guidelines listed at the bottom of the release).
• Copies of health care information – In the event of an emergency, caregivers have on hand copies of senior’s prescriptions, health insurance card, and phone numbers of health care providers.
How Senior Helpers “Heat Helpers” Work for Seniors with Dementia/Alzheimer’s
For seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s, caregivers take seniors places or play board games, and mind games to keep them active and engaged when they’re cooped-up inside. They also help in the following ways:
• Maintain Self Care – Dementia sufferers will often neglect hygiene and in the summer this becomes very apparent when they sweat. Caregivers gently suggest and then give sponge baths, telling the senior it’s a way to “cool down.”
• Reminders To Drink – Dementia sufferers often don’t recognize they’re thirsty or know to ask for a drink. Sometimes they won’t drink out of fear of incontinence. Caregivers don’t force a drink. They sit down and chat and offer sips of water or hydrating snacks like orange and grapefruit slices, while eating and drinking right along with the senior.
• Help With Late Sundown Syndrome – (periods of agitation in the evening) – Caregivers help by keeping seniors active in the day so they’re tired-out a night and go to sleep with no problem. Caregivers also keep seniors on steady nap and bedtime schedules so their bodies get used to the routine.
“We want to do everything we can to make sure our seniors don’t make heat headlines,” says Ross. “This Summer Survival Kit and our “Heat Helpers” initiative are both part of our all encompassing dementia and Alzheimer’s program called our Senior Gems Program. Families often rely on our caregivers, especially in the summer, when the lure of sunshine and warm weather has seniors clamoring to go outdoors without realizing the health risks.”
We can provide photos of a Senior Summer Survival Kit and/or interviews with local “Heat Helper” caregivers making the kits and working with seniors to keep them happy, healthy and safe this summer.
Sources: American Cancer Society, the Skin Cancer Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Journal of Public Health, American Medical Student Association, Caregiving.com
To learn more about how to care for your senior loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s through the Senior Helpers’ Senior Gems Program, please visit our website at www.seniorhelpers.com. There, you can also request a complimentary Senior Gems DVD.