Commonwealth offers senior heat safety tips

By David Broyles -
Commonwealth Senior Living Staff and residents play a spirited game of “noodle ball” before having ice cream. Extra care to stay hydrated and revise planned activities is advised as this summer’s heat sets in. - David Broyles | The Carroll News

High temperatures locally didn’t wait for the official beginning of summer, making it more important than ever for seniors and their loved ones to be aware of certain life-saving tips to keep them safe in their homes. Staff at Commonwealth Senior Living were happy to share what they have learned for seniors and caregivers alike.

Activities Director Raven Lineberry confirmed weather, and its unpredictability, has fostered an ability to part with well laid plans and try something different.

“We are definitely outside more often in the summer months because it is so nice out,” said Lineberry. “I’ve learned to now have my outside activities in the middle of the day. We have them early in the morning while it is still cool out or late in the evening when the sun is going down and it’s not so much harsh sunlight on us.”

She said she uses an awning at the community, taking advantage of its shade and providing ice cream and water. She urges caregivers to remember seniors are often on blood thinners. Making them more comfortable in warmer temperatures. How you feel may not be what the Senior is experiencing.

We went out in mid-Spring a couple of weeks ago to our gazebo. It wasn’t a terribly hot day and there was a breeze. It felt warm to me. They told me it was cold and went in for sweaters,” Lineberry said. “The awning keeps the sun off them while they are still outside. We’re enjoying the fresh air and each other’s company. We’ll go out and play word games and things like that. We’ll take some cookies and lemonade, whatever it may be. We’ll have Popsicles sometimes.”

She agrees having a variety of activities, many often the most simple of things. One evening residents wound up the day with cotton candy and corn hole. Lineberry said she feels it is important to have a change of scenery, especially after being cooped up winter.

Resident Care Director and Licensed Practical Nurse Carrie Jackson noted the importance of hydration in the face of warmer temperatures.

“We at meal times do their regular liquids they want, be it tea, lemonade or whatever they drink. We pour water along with their drinks at every meal for extra hydration. We also, during Med Passes (when medication is passed to a patient to be taken) give them a full glass of water,” said Jackson. “This gives them another eight to nine ounces of water for each med pass.”

“Back in the day I was raised…and a lot of older people were raised that whatever was on your plate, the table. That is what you finished,” Jackson said. “I’ve been in geriatrics for a long time. I took care of my grandmother when I was younger. A lot of older folks were raised to just have what is put before them. Give them a little extra.”

She said residents typically have hydration and snacks three times a day. (At 10 a.m.; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.). Commonwealth currently offers hydration stations which are also there for use by visitors. Often water flavored with real fruit is featured.

Commonwealth Senior Living has created a summer safety checklist, which serves as a resource for both seniors and their children, with steps they should consider to stay safe, secure, and cool this summer.

•Stay Hydrated: The single most important thing that seniors can do during warmer weather is to stay hydrated. Water and fruit juices that are low in sugar help to replenish the body of important vitamins and fluids that are lost during the perspiration process.

•Wear Sunscreen and Eye Protection: The number of melanoma diagnoses in seniors has increased dramatically as adults ages 65+ continue to enjoy outdoor recreational activities. Our skin’s ability to attract T cells to damaged or burned areas diminishes over time which necessitates the need to protect it with plenty of sunscreen. Protecting the eyes is also crucial as they can be damaged by direct sunlight.

•Protect Your Head with Wide-Brimmed Hats: One of the first areas where skin cancers develop are on the ears, neck, and the top of the head. As we age, the hair follicles begin to thin which removes the natural barrier to direct sunlight. Wearing wide-brimmed hats will protect all of these problem areas.

•Appropriate Attire: Loose fitting clothing made out of natural fibers such as cotton allows the skin to breath and cool itself naturally. Synthetic or tight fitting clothing restricts that breathing process and can increase the body’s temperature.

•Avoid Mid-Day Hours: The hours between 11:00am and 4:00pm are the times during which the sun is most intense. Older adults should avoid strenuous activities outside during this time period in order to minimize heatstroke or other heat related illnesses.

•Monitor Heat Index: The heat index is the calculation of moisture or humidity in the air as it relates to the evaporation process caused by the sun. A high heat index can limit the body’s ability to perspire and cool itself. Monitoring both the temperature and the heat index will help protect seniors from heat exhaustion.

•Low Intensity Exercise: Maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle is important for adults ages 65 and above but the summer months create challenges to exercising outdoors. Seniors should limit their exercise activities to air-conditioned spaces. If exercise is conducted outside, it should be a low intensity activity such as light gardening or walking near areas where they can quickly seek water and shelter if needed.

•Apply Bug Spray: Mosquitoes and ticks can carry a variety of diseases which are harder for the immune system to fight in older adults. Wearing bug spray can help protect seniors from unwanted illnesses.

•Inform Neighbors, Friends, and Family: It may seem inconvenient, but seniors should inform neighbors, friends, and/or family members if they decide to undertake outdoor activities during the summer. Having someone check in on them will provide a safety net in case anything happens and will provide a certain level of comfort to loved ones.

•Know the Signs: Seniors should know the signs of heatstroke which can take the form of muscle cramps, headaches, nausea, and dizziness. Experiencing any of these signs should alert seniors that they need to seek shelter in an air-conditioned environment and re-hydrate.

David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.

Commonwealth Senior Living Staff and residents play a spirited game of “noodle ball” before having ice cream. Extra care to stay hydrated and revise planned activities is advised as this summer’s heat sets in. Senior Living Staff and residents play a spirited game of “noodle ball” before having ice cream. Extra care to stay hydrated and revise planned activities is advised as this summer’s heat sets in. David Broyles | The Carroll News

By David Broyles