By Cindy Sproles
A number of years ago, singer Jerry Reed warbled the lyrics “When you’re hot, you’re hot. When you’re not you’re not,” to his fans. Folks laughed and danced as Reed tickled their funny bones with this catchy tune. Little did we realize how true the lyrics are.
For aging parents being hot is not as sexy as the song insinuated. Often summer heat can be deadly. As our bodies age the ability to regulate our body temperature lessens. The thirst mechanism is also thwarted and we’re more susceptible to heat stroke and dehydration. Senior’s appetites are less and their metabolisms are slower, thus placing them at severe risk.
The following factors place seniors at a higher risk for heatstroke:
*Certain medications (especially diuretics and antidepressants)
*Use of alcohol
* Inability to manage personal care
* Unavailability of air conditioning or fans
* Some mental illness and Alzheimer’s
* Certain medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and COPD
The single most important thing families can do for their seniors is to check on their loved ones numerous times a day during extended heat waves. Often the elderly “feel” cold and are inclined to up the household thermostat, raising the temperature higher. Watch for signs of heatstroke such as a red face, weakness, heavy breathing, dizziness and lack of sweat.
Encourage seniors to dress light. Lightweight, light-colored cotton materials help seniors remain cool. Keep cold bottles of water handy, damp cool rags and fans or air conditioning available. Limit outdoor activity especially during mid to late afternoon when heat indexes rise. Rest and eat light meals. Stress the importance of keeping hydrated but avoid alcoholic drinks. Remind seniors to take temped bathes or showers and to avoid hot laundry rooms on days the temperatures are toasty.
Don’t let your aging parents fall prey to the heat. Keep them safe and remind them daily of their importance to the family unit. Drag out those old family photos and glean through the times when hot meant more than the temperature outside.