Montreal seniors often enjoy the summer weather because of its opportunities for relaxation and outdoor activities. While getting enough sunlight is important, there are risks involved; caregivers of the elderly should be aware of excessive sun exposure and heat stroke. To ensure health & safety for you or your senior loved one this summer, read these ten tips!
1. Avoid Sunburns
Sunshine is the best natural source of vitamin D, and can provide plenty of great health benefits for seniors, both physical and mental. However, sun exposure can be too much of a good thing. Sunburns are a danger at any age, but as we grow older, our skin naturally loses its fat and water, causing it to become thinner. This makes it easier for UV rays to penetrate the skin and lead to burns. When outside on sunny days, seniors should always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF or higher, re-applying the same amount every two hours.
2. Dress Right
Another important element of summer safety is proper clothing. In order to protect an elderly person’s skin from the harmful rays, make sure the right attire is worn. Choose wide brimmed hats that cover the face and neck, as well as sunglasses with protection from both UVA and UVB rays. It may also be a good idea to wear pants and long-sleeve shirts, as these provide a bit of protection from the sun, though it’s important to make sure your senior loved one doesn’t overheat under too many layers. Clothing should be light-colored and loose to prevent chaffing.
3. Prevent Dehydration
Loss of fluids through sweating, a lowered intake of water from fruit and vegetables (which seniors often avoid eating due to difficulty chewing), and certain medications are all factors that can put the elderly at risk for dehydration. The hot Montreal weather makes this an even bigger danger, so it’s important that family members and caregivers know the signs of dehydration. Make sure to avoid sugary soft drinks or caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea, as these can dehydrate you further. Consider adding an electrolyte drink mix to water to replace the minerals lost through sweating, but for diabetics, be sure to get a mix that doesn’t contain added sugar.
4. Be Aware of Overheating
During heat waves, the elderly are most at risk for hyperthermia, heat stroke, syncope, and even death. With age, the efficiency of our bodies’ sweat glands is naturally reduced, making it easier to succumb to the heat. Some symptoms of common heat illnesses include:
- Dark urine;
- Intense sweating;
- Nausea or vomiting;
- Rapid pulse;
- Loss of consciousness/fainting (heat syncope).
To lower the risk of overheating, make sure to stay out of the sun when it’s at its peak strength, between 10am and 4pm.
5. Stay Cool
On particularly hot days, seniors should stay in an air-conditioned environment and limit their time outdoors. If your home doesn’t have air conditioning, open windows at opposite ends of the house to create a cool draft. It’s also a good idea to spend some time in air-conditioned buildings such as shopping malls, grocery stores, and libraries. Professional caregivers can help by arranging for a fan or air conditioner to be set up in your aging family member’s home, and making sure they drink enough water throughout the day.
6. Go for a Dip
Many Montreal cities, including Westmount, Côte Saint-Luc, Hampstead, and Mount Royal, have municipal pools. Swimming is a great low-impact exercise for seniors, and an ideal way to cool off in the summer. Waterproof sunscreen should always be worn, and the elderly should never swim alone! There should always be a caregiver or family member present to ensure safety.
7. Keep Bugs at Bay
Bugs and mosquitoes are ubiquitous in the summer, but they’re more than just an annoying inconvenience. According to the Government of Canada, diseases such as the West Nile Virus are spread by mosquitoes most commonly in the months of July, August and September. Seniors, of course, are especially at risk due to their weakened immune systems. Insect repellent should be worn when outdoors or near any wooded areas, especially around dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are particularly active.
8. Outdoor Activity Risks
Many seniors enjoy pastimes such as gardening, walking, and golfing. While these are all great ways to stay active, they also involve a lot of time out in the sun. Make sure that special attention is paid to seniors participating in these hobbies, as being active will increase the risk of dehydration through sweating. Seniors should drink extra water when being engaging in any physical activity outdoors.
9. Seek the Shade
Being directly in the sun for an extended period of time is risky. Whenever possible, seniors should find shade to get out of the heat every so often; for example, when spending time at a public park, it’s best to sit on a bench beneath a tree with dense foliage.
10. Don’t be Alone
Finally, the most important summer safety tip for seniors is to not be alone in the heat. The dangers of summer are greatly exacerbated when nobody is around in case of an emergency, such as fainting or heat stroke. If you have a senior loved one living in Montreal, Complete Care Coordination can help: Having a professional, qualified caregiver to make sure your elderly loved one is properly hydrated, dressed and kept out of the heat is part of our Elderly Care Services.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us today for a free consultation with a nurse.