Unfortunately, many elderly people age 65 and older, are more prone to heat stress and heat related illnesses during summertime.
Tracy Farriba, a nurse and director of Gordon Home Care, shares information and tips about protecting the elderly when temperatures rise to the 90s and beyond.
Drink plenty of water said Farriba, which means increasing your fluid intake, regardless of thirst, and avoiding certain beverages in the summertime.
“Avoid caffeine and alcohol because these drinks will dehydrate you,” she said.
She recommends the elderly drink eight glasses of water, containing eight ounces or more in each glass, a day.
“If you aren’t drinking water, drink Gatorade,” Farriba said. “Sports drinks are not bad, such as Gatorade, if you are active.”
Doctors remind patients that heat related illness are preventable and when gardening at home that the middle of the afternoon is the worst time of day to be outside.
“Don’t do vigorous activity in the middle of the day. Early morning or late afternoon is best. The heat dehydrates you very quickly and puts you at risk for cardiovascular problems,” she said.
Farriba suggests wearing a hat and lightweight clothing that are made in breathable fabrics, as well as sunscreen.
“Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids. It also causes pain and damages the skin,” she said.
Another important preventive measure is a health check.
“In the elderly, you may not see them in the fittest of health. There are physical limitations and getting their physical (exam) and knowing what they can and can’t do is important,” Farriba said.
Recognizing the signs of Heat Stroke
Farriba said some of the warning signs of heat stroke are high body temperature, no sweating, rapid pulse, a throbbing headache, nausea and dizziness.
“The main sign is the absence of sweat and their temperature will be extremely elevated,” Farriba said.
Heat stroke occurs because the body is unable to maintain its regular temperature.
“The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise anywhere in the range of 103 to106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 or 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Farriba points out that an elderly person with heart disease, lung problems or chronic medical conditions are more prone to a heat stroke. If a heat related incident does occur, she said to not dismiss the symptoms and call 911 or your health care provider.
“It’s better to be safe than sorry and signs of any symptoms should not be treated lightly,” she said.
If a person is experiencing a heat stroke, Farriba recommends the following:
- Get medical attention immediately.
- Get the person to a shaded area.
- Remove their clothing.
- Fan them continuously.
- Do not give them any drinks with caffeine or that are cold.
- Look out for twitching as a result of heat stroke.
“They can go into a full blown seizure or hallucinate or even into a comma,” Farriba said. “Watch them carefully.”
About Gordon Home Care
One resource that offers help to seniors is Gordon Home Care, a nonprofit provider of community-based services to older adults and their families. The adult day health program, for example, is medical supervised service by nurses that includes physical assessment, education and assistance in carrying out a prescribed plan of care.
“The beauty of our services is they get to be in their homes. They are also in an environment and it really helps with the healing process. We’re here to help them get a high quality of life,” Farriba said.
Farriba said the program also helps caregivers know the person is thriving and gives them a healthier lifestyle.
“By giving them help in their home then we can offer a healthier life style. We can teach them what in the cupboard is good and what is bad,” she said.
Wound care to injections in support of seniors living independently is among the other offerings.
Farriba said they have between 80 to 110 patients, and they are seeing a number of younger clients.
“We’ve been treating infants to geriatrics. We take care of a lot of community breast cancer in the home,” she said.
The Gordon Home Care office is located at 104 Hospital Court in Calhoun. Visit
http://www.gordonhospital.com/CareAndServices/GordonHomeCare.aspx or call 706-629-3333 for more information.