The sun is out, the pool is open, and it smells like someone in the neighborhood has fired up their grill. That can only mean one thing—it's summer!
Summer is one of our favorite seasons, and it provides a great opportunity for people of all ages to get moving outside and enjoy everything nature has to offer. However, it's important to be aware of some safety risks that come with the warmer months, as well as how to avoid them. And, for seniors in particular, the summer heat can be especially dangerous. Here are eight tips to help seniors stay safe this summer!
1. Stay Cool
According to the CDC, people over the age of 65 are more prone to heat-related health concerns. Whether this is due to chronic illnesses that affect temperature regulation or because of certain medications, most seniors aren't able to adjust to sudden changes in temperature as quickly as younger people.
Luckily, there are still steps you can take to stay cool throughout the summer. First and foremost, make sure the air conditioning in your house is working properly, and don't just rely on fans to keep your home cool. If your house isn't equipped with quality air conditioning, consider buying a window unit or staying with friends or family during particularly hot days. Even taking a trip to the local mall or other air-conditioned public space can be a good way to cool down!
When heading outside, make sure to do so either early in the morning or later in the afternoon. Avoid being in the sun during the hottest hours of the day, which are typically between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Once you're out, avoid strenuous activity, take rests regularly, and try to keep cool in the shade.
2. Stay Hydrated
No matter your age, one of the best ways to avoid heat-related health concerns is to stay hydrated. That means drinking plenty of fluids, even if you're not feeling thirsty. However, senior citizens are especially prone to dehydration, so it's especially important to make sure you're getting enough fluids throughout the day.
The best way to stay hydrated is by drinking water, and you should aim to drink eight glasses a day. However, other fluids can also help, like fruit juice, milk, or smoothies. If you plan on spending time outside on a hot day, make sure to drink even more than eight glasses. Also, avoid caffeine, alcohol, and sugary drinks, as they can actually dehydrate you!
If you have trouble drinking enough fluids, try carrying a water bottle with you everywhere you go. And keep in mind, that doesn't mean you have to pay for tons of expensive bottled water! All you need is a large reusable water bottle that you can refill with clean water as needed. That way, you'll always have water on hand when you need it. If the flavor is more your issue, try putting your favorite fruit in your water, like lemons, berries, or oranges, to make it more interesting!
3. Stay Connected
Another important summer safety tip is to stay connected with family members, friends, neighbors, and your doctor, especially if you or an aging loved one lives alone. That might mean letting someone know where you're going and what you'll be doing when you leave the house, or checking in on your neighbors from time to time. No matter what, staying connected to your community can help ensure that in case of an emergency, others are aware.
One way to stay connected is by making sure your family or friends have your contact information, like your phone number and address. If you have a medical condition that requires special attention, make sure they know about it, as well! It can also be helpful to designate a few people who can check in on you during extreme weather conditions.
It's also important to stay connected to your doctor. Regular appointments are a great way to check in on your health and make sure you're up-to-date on any vaccinations or screenings you might need. If coming into the office is difficult, whether that be because of chronic conditions, issues with mobility, or just because you'd rather stay in your own home, we provide care through virtual Telehealth appointments!
At Pittsburgh Health Partners, we believe that accessibility is one of the most important parts of healthcare. By giving our patients the option to meet with their doctors without leaving the comfort of their own homes, we hope to make quality, compassionate healthcare more accessible for everyone. We believe that by making this professional in-home care available to all, we can help keep our community healthy and safe, no matter the season.
For those with more complicated health needs (meaning those managing two or more chronic conditions), we also offer Remote Patient Monitoring services. As part of the program, our patients are able to use prescribed devices to share real-time health data with their healthcare provider, making life easier, increasing their quality of care, and allowing for more independence.
After all, senior care and elder care don't have to involve putting your mother in a nursing home in order for her to get the assistance she needs. It's possible for your loved ones to get the best care possible while maintaining their dignity and life in their own home!
4. Dress Well
Next time you find yourself folding your laundry, take inventory of your summer-weather clothes. Do you have light-colored, loose-fitting options? Are they made of breathable materials? If not, consider treating yourself to some new summer staples!
Light colors reflect heat better than dark colors, so lighter and brighter options can help keep you cool in the summer sun. Loose-fitting clothes allow for better air circulation, which also helps keep you cooler. Also, fabrics like linen and cotton are more breathable than synthetic fabrics, like polyester, so they'll help you stay comfortable and dry even when it's humid outside.
Also, your clothes should be comfortable and practical, but that doesn't mean they can't be stylish! Whether you're a fashion guru or not so interested in trends, light-colored, loose-fitting, and breathable summer clothes will always be in style.
5. Protect Yourself From The Sun
The sun's harmful UV rays affect everyone! No matter your age, it's important to give your skin the support it needs to stay shielded from the sun.
We all know the importance of sunscreen, but sometimes it's easy to forget to put it on, especially if you're just going for a short walk or running a few errands. However, no matter how long you'll be outside, it's always important to put on sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and reapply every two hours, or more often if you're sweating or swimming.
In addition to sunscreen, sunglasses and a sunhat can also help protect you from the sun's harmful rays. Wearing sunglasses outdoors can help reduce your risk of cataracts, and a wide-brimmed sun hat will protect your face, ears, and neck from sun damage.
Here's a bonus tip: any time you're outside, no matter the season or how cloudy it may be, it's always important to protect yourself from the sun!
6. Mind Your Medicine
Did you know some medications can increase your sensitivity to the sun? If you take medications for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart conditions, or even acne, you may be at a higher risk for sunburn or other skin damage.
Be sure to talk to your doctor or another medical provider about any medications you're taking and whether or not they make you more susceptible to the sun's harmful rays. Your provider may recommend a different medication or dosage, or they may suggest you take extra precautions when spending time outdoors.
Also, if you or a loved one struggle to remember to take your medication, our team may have the answer. As part of our dedication to our patients, we now offer Remote Therapeutic Monitoring through Perigon Pharmacy. With an easy-to-use dispenser, phone application, and daily medication reminders, this home-based care service ensures you have the support to take the medication you need, when you need it. Plus, it allows you or your loved one to have more independence and peace of mind.
7. Plan Ahead
Whether you're planning a fun summer outing with family members or going about your normal daily activities, it's important to check the weather in the morning and rearrange your day accordingly. If it's going to be a normal, hot summer day, utilize all of the above tips to stay cool! However, if it's going to be particularly bad outside, consider rescheduling your plans and staying in the air conditioning.
Also, take time to evaluate what you'll be eating throughout the day, from snacks to meals. Using your oven or stove during a heatwave can make your home even warmer, so try to stick to meals that don't require heat, or at least can be made in the microwave. You could also try meal preparation, or making a big batch of something on a cooler day so you have leftovers for the week, or taking advantage of quick and easy meals like salads or wrap-ups.
For snacks, look to fruits and veggies! Not only are these healthy options packed with vitamins and nutrients, but they're also packed with water. Watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, cucumbers, and tomatoes are all over 90% water by weight, so they'll help keep you hydrated in the summer heat while satisfying your hunger.
8. Contact Pittsburgh Health Partners
At Pittsburgh Health Partners, your health is our top priority. We're proud to provide compassionate care for those in Allegheny County and other Pennsylvania counties, whether that be in-person or virtually. With resources and programs like Telehealth, Remote Patient Monitoring, and Remote Therapeutic Monitoring, we're happy to assist you and your loved ones with the services you need to maintain your independence.
With many services for seniors available to ensure that you or your loved one receive the best care possible, the team at Pittsburgh Health Partners is here for you. Schedule an appointment online today to learn more about our personal care services!