It’s summer and 90 degree days are stacking up in Houston. Although it’s tempting to enjoy the sunny days of summer, seniors and those taking care of aging parents should heed basic safety and comfort measures to avoid overheating during our city’s blistering days.
So, here are a few summer safety tips to keep in mind to make the sunshine enjoyable.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking sufficient water is important year round but is especially so during the hot summer months when dehydration is a real possibility. Ideally, an adult should drink eight or more glasses of appropriate liquids every day. Appropriate liquids are water or fruit juices; flavored waters are fine, as long as they do not include caffeine, as caffeinated beverages (including coffee and tea) encourage dehydration. In addition to limiting caffeine intake, those taking care of elderly individuals should also monitor alcohol intake, which can contribute to dehydration. Keep wet washcloths on hand when outdoors in the heat and apply them to the neck, wrists, or face to help remain hydrated and cool.
- Watch the pace. Being outdoors in the sun, especially after a long and challenging winter, can be quite invigorating. Sometimes, however, the emotional lift of being outside may cause a person to overdo things a bit. Seniors and their caregivers should make sure that they undertake physical activities at a safe level and not attempt to do too much too quickly.
- Avoid peak heat. When heat is high, those taking care of elderly ones should plan outdoor time carefully; working in the garden during the cooler morning hours or going for a walk later in the afternoon reduces the risk of heat-related discomfort.
- Dress for heat. This does not necessarily mean shorts, as some seniors prefer more covering (which also protects them from sunburn). Instead, make sure that clothes are loose and not constricting, as looser clothes allow for greater air flow. Also, lighter colors absorb less heat, and natural fibers such as cotton are cooler than synthetics.
- Use sunscreen. Sunburn can sneak up on a person and can create greater challenges for a senior than for a young adult. Rub on sunscreen whenever venturing out for any considerable length of time.
- Watch the windows. Determine when to use windows and fans and when to use air conditioning. At night, opening windows may be a preferable alternative, especially if one can create a cross-breeze. During the day, damper windows receiving a lot of sun with shades or curtains. If certain windows receive too much sunlight, try covering the front of a piece of cardboard in aluminum foil and putting it in the window, facing out. This can help to reflect the heat back out away from the interior of the house.
- Plan for electrical outages. Unfortunately, the Gulf Coast region is prone to widespread power outages during Gulf Coast storms or hurricanes. Have a plan in place to remain cool during extended power outages such as leaving town or making certain that a generator is available for generating the power to cool at least one room of the home during peak heat. Or, learn about citywide cooling centers that may be available in your area.
Summer is a marvelous time of year, but it does require proper planning and a sensible degree of caution. The above tips can help keep senior loved ones safe while enjoying this lovely time of the year.