It's mid-summer, a time when many regions across the U.S. experience almost unbearable heat. While temperatures in San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area don't normally rise to dangerous levels, we have been known to experience a heat wave occasionally. As home caregiver providers for Bay Area seniors, we thought you would be interested to know how hot weather can impact older individuals with chronic health conditions.
While seniors often become more "cold natured" as they grow older and the heat can be a welcome relief, it's important to know that seniors are more prone to heat-related illnesses due to their inability to regulate their body temperatures. Additionally, chronic conditions such as diabetes or lung diseases can increase the risk of heat sensitivity in the aging.
Lung and kidney disease. Whether an aging loved one suffers from COPD or other lung issues, kidney disease, or other medical issues, it's important to understand these factors can affect the body's ability to regulate heat. This is also true of seniors who take several medications. Make sure that when outdoors in hot weather, seniors take frequent breaks inside where it's cool, wear lightweight clothing, and drink plenty of water. It's important to avoid alcohol or caffeine, which can result in dehydration.
Diabetes. Dehydration is a bigger risk for diabetics, who often experience dangerous imbalances in blood sugar levels when temperatures soar. Exposure to hot temperatures can result in hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Seniors should have a discussion with their doctors about the best way to regulate blood sugar during hot summer months.
Heart disease. Many elderly people take medications to reduce sodium levels and adhere to salt-free or restricted diets when they have heart disease. These individuals are at a greater risk for heat stress, and often begin taking salt supplements or leaving off their medications during hot summer months. Never do this without first talking to your physician, who will work with you to develop a plan for avoiding heat stress.
While luckily we don't often have dangerously high temperatures in the Bay Area, it's important to keep an eye on seniors who have chronic health conditions, even if the temperature feels comfortable to those of us who are younger. Become familiar with the symptoms of heat exhaustion, and consider a caregiver during the daytime hours to help your aging loved one with daily tasks and to keep an eye out for his/her health.
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