The Arizona heat index is climbing fast. With the rising thermometer readings, residents who brave the Sonoran Desert summers are at risk for heat-related illness and dehydration due to dangerously high temperatures.
There are sensible solutions to beat the heat, and those of us who are here year-round may just need to be reminded. According to the experts, older adults are at greater risk from the perils of excessive heat.
To protect yourself from the summer heat, the standard advice is to remain inside air-conditioned buildings, dress lightly or in layers and keep hydrated. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, since poor circulation often causes seniors to feel chilly. It’s not uncommon for an older adult to reach for a sweater or turn on the heat in their home even though it's unbearably hot outside.
Dehydration is another serious concern. The body’s natural thirst mechanism becomes less effective with age, so many seniors are perpetually dehydrated regardless of the season. To add to the problem, many older adults often prefer beverages like soda to water. While drinks that are high in caffeine and sugar do contain some fluids, medical professionals tout water as the ideal option for staying hydrated.
“We have to make certain our participants are drinking enough fluid throughout the day, and I encourage them to drink water almost every hour or so, especially in the summer,” says Denise Turner, director of Posada Life Adult Day Services. “Those with dementia often forget to eat and drink and a gentle reminder is necessary.”
Heat stroke is another threat, Turner says. Caregivers are encouraged to keep an eye out for symptoms like confusion or altered mental state in their loved ones who are out in hot weather.
Tips for beating the heat:
• If you or your loved one complains of the cold indoors, turn up the thermostat a bit and try to sit away from the direct flow of air vents. Also consider spending the hottest parts of the day inside if you can.
• To keep the house cooler without running the air conditioning, close curtains or blinds, especially in the afternoon.
• If you or someone you know or care for doesn't have air conditioning or refuses to use it, make sure you or your loved one spend at least some time in a cool, air-conditioned space, like the Green Valley Library, the Posada Life Community Center, a Green Valley Recreation social center or at a movie theater.
• Keep cool goodies available that are low in sugar and have a high water content. Sugar-free popsicles are a good option and you can make your own using juice. Fruits and vegetables that are high in water, like watermelon, cucumbers, celery, strawberries and bell peppers, are also a simple way to increase one’s fluid intake.