Heat-Related Dangers for Seniors with Chronic Illness or Taking Medication
Read about information and tips for Senior safety for the summer from Brookhaven and become more aware of how to stay safe.
It is important for healthy older adults to be aware of the importance of abiding by hot-weather precautions. They should read website articles, leaflets from the doctor’s office and heat-safety initiatives about prevention of heat-related illnesses.
Special Care for Seniors
Seniors who live in a skilled nursing facility, rely on the facility for all their needs. They are not always aware of the precautions that they should follow. Their family, friends and carers must focus on this additional part of caring for them.
Adults over the age of 65 are at greater risk of being negatively affected by heat waves and summer scorching weather. As an example of the general danger, the North American heat wave of 2006 led to more than 200 heat-related human casualties in the U.S. The authorities were still calculating heat-related deaths due to that heat wave in November of 2006.
These types of figures should make us aware of what the summer heat can do.
Being aware enables us to take care!
What does prevention of harm due to summer heat, mean for an older adult in a skilled nursing facility?
Awareness of the Effects of Heat
Older adult may be less aware of the heat and the effects it could have. Nevertheless, they could be more sensitive to the effects of the heat.
They may have a chronic illness which makes them more susceptible to the effects of heat or generally weaker.
They may be affected more as a side effect of the medicines they are taking.
Heat Can Exacerbate Medical Conditions
Some of the medical conditions that may be affected negatively by extreme heat are:
- Multiple Sclerosis – exacerbation of symptoms and possibility of Uthoff’s phenomenon.
- Lupus – check the UV index and avoid skin irritation caused by sensitivity to the sun.
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) – prepare a support system and back-up plan in case of power shortage.
- Gastrointestinal Issues – increased risk of inflammatory bowl disease for people who have gastrointestinal issues.
Individuals with the following conditions are more at risk for heat-related illnesses:
- Heart disease
- Mental illness
- Poor blood circulation
- Obesity – due to greater retention of body heat
Medications that Affect How a Person Reacts to the Heat
The two main concerns, other than regular heat-related illnesses are photo-allergy and photo-toxicity. Ask the doctor about the side affects of medications. Specifically ask how a senior could be affected by sunshine while taking that medication. Sometimes even commonly used or over-the-counter drugs can affect how a person feels and reacts to heat.
If the medication does have heat-related side effects, ask the doctor if it can be taken at night.
Visit Consumer Reports to find out which medications fall into this category.
Using sunscreen is essential if an older adult is exposed to the sun even for a short amount of time. The use of sunscreen may reduce the effects of the exposure to the sun as a result of the medication.
Checklist for Senior Safety for the Summer
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends caretakers follow a checklist on hotter days. We can extend it to family and friends, who could also follow these points:
Visit loved ones at least twice a day:
- Check if they are drinking enough clear fluids, especially water
- Notice whether they are using the air conditioning
- Assess whether they know how to stay cool
- Pay attention to whether they are showing any signs of heat stress
Learn about the signs of heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat rash and heatstroke. Learn to recognize when to practice preventative actions and when medical help is needed.
After reading about senior safety for the summer from Brookhaven, hopefully you will be more aware of the prevalent dangers. You will be more prepared for the summer and more aware of when to call for medical help should it be needed.
Take precautions, and have a happy healthy summer!