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Thursday, June 22, 2017

7 Summer Health & Safety Reminders for Seniors


With the official start of summer comes important safety reminders and checklists for seniors. From beating the heat to remembering to stay hydrated, small, proactive actions can keep you in on the summer fun and out of trouble. Don’t miss these top 7:

Don’t Overdo It
As the warm sun beckons you outside to spend all day working in the garden, tending to the landscaping, or clearing out the garage, it’s important to remember not to overdo it. While your body may not recognize strain and joint stress right away, especially on lower back muscles, over a few days you will feel the ache and pain in your inflamed muscles and joints. Avoid spending a significant amount of time bending over, stooping, leaning, and reaching - instead use sitting stools, reacher grabbers, and frequent breaks to ease up on your body and place less stress on internal joints and muscles.

Stay Hydrated

Did you know that you may not feel thirsty even when you’re dehydrated? Metabolic imbalances can hinder thirst function and the general wear and tear of aging makes it more difficult to conserve water. The resulting dehydration can quickly sneak up on you and lead to serious medical complications. Setting reminders to drink water regularly throughout the day, as well as in-taking lots of water-rich fruits, vegetables, and soups, and drinking additional electrolyte-based beverages (with sodium and potassium) can ensure your body’s cells get all the hydration they need to function normally.

Know the Signs of Heat Stroke
With temperatures soaring above 100 degrees in many towns across the U.S. at just the start of the summer, it’s critically important for older adults and their caregivers to recognize signs of heat stroke. Hyperthermia, or heat stroke, can quickly spiral out of control and become life-threatening. Seek medical attention immediately if your body temperature spikes and you experience:

•    Headaches
•    Nausea or vomiting
•    Confusion, disorientation, or agitation
•    Dry, flushed skin
•    Rapid pulse
•    Heavy breathing
•    Not sweating and even fainting

Dress Lightly
Wearing loose, breathable clothing made with less synthetic materials (like cotton) during the summer does more than you may know. In addition to helping you stay cool, it provides greater comfort, is easier to put on, and allows for more active, fluid movement. A dressing aid for the disabled may help a senior with limited range of motion or mobility continue to be able to get dressed on their own. One item that should never be loose however? Shoes. Proper fitting shoes with smooth bottoms help support and stabilize strong mobility as well as potentially prevent falls.
 
Beat the Heat

Properly cooled environments may be a luxury for some seniors, though some local nonprofits and programs could potentially help you acquire a free or discounted unit. If you don’t have air conditioning or your unit breaks on a very hot day, try to get out of your house until it is fixed. Go to a friend’s house or area with air conditioning like a movie theatre or coffee shop. Don’t wait outside in scalding heat for a bus, but instead call a friend, neighbor, or local rideshare service for a ride if you cannot transport yourself. If you are unable to leave the house, cool off in cool shower or bath until help arrives.

Practice Sun Safety
Just as you would in your younger years, practice sun safety by wearing hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen when spending extended amounts of time outdoors. According to SkinCancer.org, an estimated 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. SPF 30+ is a safe recommendation when it comes to sunscreen, but it is also important to remember that limited sun exposure is healthy for the body which converts UV rays into Vitamin D. Vitamin D plays an important role in helping your body absorb calcium and grow bones as well as lowering your risk of developing some chronic diseases.

Watch Out for Water
Much of the fun of summer is cooling off with water! When traveling and having family over during the warm summer months, be careful of puddles and spills that come with grandkids tracking in water from the beach or dogs knocking over their water bowls after a hike. Slick and slippery surfaces turn your home into a dangerous environment with increased risk of you falling and injuring yourself. One out of three seniors over 65 will experience a fall, and many in their own home. Be smart about cleaning up spills and asking guests to dry off prior to entering your home after a dunk in the pool or ocean.

Ultimately, seniors should always have multiple emergency contacts whom they can reach out to if an issue comes up including air conditioning breaking, running out of clean, drinkable water, or needing help with a big summer project. Storing emergency numbers in a smartphone as well as printing them off and posting them in a common area, like the kitchen, can ensure that in the event of an emergency, help isn’t far away this summer.

This is a guest blog entry.

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