Seniors can stay safe while soaking up summer sun

Summer can be an especially exciting time at Capital Senior Living communities across the country. With grandkids and great grandkids out of school and available for more visits, our residents have even more opportunities to get outdoors in our landscaped courtyards or stroll around our beautifully manicured grounds, soak up some sun and interact with their loved ones. But just like with any activity, caution must be taken to ensure a happy and healthy visit.

The older we get, the more vulnerable we are to summer’s heat and humidity. According to the American Geriatrics Society’s Foundation for Health in Aging, seniors 50 and over are less sensitive to heat and feeling thirsty, making it potentially dangerous if extra precautions are not taken to protect from sunburn, dehydration and heat-related illnesses. Age, weight, and prescription drug use are among factors that can make seniors more or less susceptible to heat hazards. Capital Senior Living residents should use common sense when doing any activities outdoors during the hot summer months. We want our residents to flourish outdoors, so here are a few suggestions for seniors if they must go out in temperatures higher than 90 degrees:

  • Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing and hats and sunglasses to keep the sun off of your face and head.
  • Use at least SPF 30 sunscreen on all parts of the body that are exposed to the sun, including forehead, ears, nose and back of the neck.
  • Avoid strenuous activities as much as possible, especially during the hottest times of the day between noon and 4 p.m.
  • Drink plenty of fluids including water and sports drinks while avoiding alcohol and caffeinated beverages. Doctors recommend seniors drink at least eight glasses of water a day, even if they don’t feel thirsty.
  • Snack on healthy foods and snacks that are freshly prepared at our communities. According to senior advocates who write for the Aging Matters blog at The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, California, foods that are high in protein increase metabolic heat. So, if you know you’re going outside, try enjoying a sandwich, salad, fresh fruit and vegetables rather than a heavier meal.
  • Check the warning labels on any prescription medicines that are being taken on a regular basis. Some may affect how the body manages heat. If you have any questions, feel free to ask our knowledgeable and courteous staff members for assistance.

Should overexposure to the sun happen, seniors should be aware of the symptoms and know how to react immediately. Sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke happen when the human body can’t cool itself as quickly as it’s heating up or if too many fluids or salt are lost through sweating. All require immediate attention.

Sunburn: Water pills, antibiotics, some antidepressants and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can increase sensitivity to the sun. According to the Mayo Clinic, signs include a pink or red color, pain or tenderness in a particular area and skin that feels warm or hot to the touch. If you get sunburn, the clinic suggests taking a cool bath and applying over-the-counter aloe or hydrocortisone cream. If blisters appear, do not break them but instead cover them with light, nonstick gauze.

Heat cramps: Muscular pains and spasms typically occur in the legs or stomach and can affect anyone who is sweating. Those suffering from heat cramps should take regular sips of water and apply firm pressure to muscle spasms while taking temporary shelter from direct sunlight. If cramps continue for more than an hour, professional medical assistance should be sought.

Heat exhaustion: Several days of consistent exposure to high temperatures and humidity could cause dizziness and weakness with constant nausea and headaches. Seniors will more than likely be sweating heavily and appear pale. To treat heat exhaustion, loosen any clothing and apply cool clothes or towels to all areas of the skin. Seniors should also take sips of cool water.

Heat stroke: When body temperatures rise to 105 or more degrees, residents will begin rapid, shallow breathing, vomiting, seizures, and may fall unconscious. After calling 911 for assistance, the person suffering from heat stroke should be moved to a cooler place and fanned to bring the body temperature down. Do not administer fluids.  

Of course, the best way to avoid the varying degrees of heat-related illnesses is to stay indoors. The apartment homes within our Capital Senior Living communities have individual climate controls so residents can set their ideal temperatures. And, because monthly rent covers most bills, residents won’t have the added worry of trying to pay skyrocketing electricity costs in order to stay cool and comfortable.

Our communities also offer so many indoor spaces to entertain visitors. Common areas have big-screen TVs where residents can make their grandchildren feel like they’re at the movies while watching a favorite flick and snacking on popcorn. Activity centers are perfect for playing board and card games.

Sunny days do lift the spirits of our residents, and with an ounce of prevention, fun can be had by all.

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