Summer Safety for Seniors

June marks the official start of the summer season which means warmer temperatures, more daylight, and a lot more humidity. While the summer is a season full of family get-togethers, ice cream trucks, and vacations, it is also a season that can be especially dangerous for seniors. Here are a few safety tips for you to ensure your senior loved one stays healthy this season.

Check that Air Conditioning

Air conditioning is the best way to keep your loved one’s home nice and cool. However, air conditioning is only effective if it is working and if it is running. If you haven’t already, have someone come out to inspect your loved one’s air conditioning system. If your loved one rents, contact the landlord or property manager to make sure an inspection is done sooner than later. Once you are confident that the air conditioning system is working, you can focus on making sure your loved one is using it.

While some older adults have no qualms about turning on their air conditioning all summer long, others are hesitant. If your loved one is worried about energy bills rising during the summer, connect with your city’s senior services agency to learn if they are eligible for LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) or other programs that can offset the cost. If possible, consider installing a smart thermostat in the home so that you can monitor the temperature and adjust it as needed right from your smartphone.

Rearrange the Closet

Summertime is not the season for heavy wool cardigans or sweaters. In fact, overheating due to seasonally inappropriate clothing can happen quickly and with serious consequences. While it is common for older adults to naturally feel colder than their younger peers, you can reduce the risk of overheating by taking a few hours one afternoon to switch out their closets for summer. Move the heavy sweaters, sweat pants, and wool items to the back of the closet and move the lighter weight items to the front. This will make it easier for them to dress for the warm weather.

Plan for Heading Outside

When your loved one heads out for their morning walk or to run errands with a friend, encourage them to plan for summer safety. Add a reusable water bottle to their purse or bag and keep sunscreen near the front door. Encourage them to use a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off their face as well, ensuring they stay as cool as possible while on their trip out of the house.

A wide-brimmed hat can keep bright sun of your loved one’s face.

Watch the Time

Finally, encourage your loved one to spend their time outside in the mornings or evenings. The hottest parts of the day are between the hours of 10am and 2pm, making these hours the most dangerous for heat-related illnesses. You can help reinforce this by planning family gatherings around these times so that you can be sure your loved one will be cool and safe.

Know Signs of Heat-Related Illnesses

Finally, be sure you and your loved one know the signs of heat-related illness. Seniors can present different symptoms than their younger peers, especially when it comes to dehydration or heat exhaustion. Watch for symptoms like sudden confusion, fatigue, muscle cramping, or stomachache, and head indoors to cool off immediately.

At Lovebird HomeCare, we are sure to bring the excitement and traditions of summer to our clients without the extra heat-related dangers. Call us today to learn more about how our services can keep your loved one safer this season.

Low Vision and Living at Home

May was Healthy Vision Month and the perfect time to talk more about the prevalence of low vision in older adults. The American Foundation for the Blind reports that the risk of severe eye problems increases significantly with age. Those over the age of 65 are much more likely to experience conditions that cause low vision or legal blindness than their peers. 

If your senior loved one has vision loss and is struggling at home, they aren’t alone. Approximately 6.1 million Americans over the age of 65 have some type of vision loss. Most troubling is that those living with vision loss did not grow up with it and are attempting to navigate their homes and the world with vision impairment that occurred over the past few years. 

Low Vision Challenges at Home

Living with low vision is easier with the right support.

People with low vision can certainly live at home alone and thrive. However, there are some challenges. For example, low vision can increase the risk of falling. People with low vision can also experience challenges with food preparation, which can quickly lead to poor nutrition. Finally, people with low vision can struggle with getting out and about to meet friends as often, leading to isolation and feelings of loneliness.

Making It Work

If your loved one has low vision, safety is the number one concern. Here are a few adjustments you can make to their home in order to ensure their safety:

  • Remove clutter. Ensure that the main pathways through your loved one’s home are clear and easy to navigate. 
  • Enhance lighting. If your loved one is living with low vision, they can benefit from having more lighting throughout the home. Add extra light sources to stairways, the bathroom, and halls.
  • Use contrasting colors. For those with vision challenges, noticing the difference between surfaces can be difficult. Make it easier to navigate stairs and floor transitions (carpet to hardwood, for example), by using bright tape. It might not be trendy, but it will keep your loved one safe.

To make preparing and eating meals easier, try any of these tips:

  • Prepare individual portions of meals in advance and put them in the fridge or freezer. This way, your loved one can easily grab one container and put it in the microwave for a home cooked and nutritious meal.
  • Consider signing up your loved one for your community’s Meals on Wheels program. This way, they receive a meal delivered to their door throughout the week.
  • Contact the team at Lovebird HomeCare to set up meal preparation services. Our caregivers love to nourish clients with delicious meals.

Finally, socialization decreases for most people who have low vision and who live at home alone. Decrease isolation and feelings of loneliness by:

  • Scheduling transportation to/from church fellowship groups, activities at the senior center, and other events your loved one enjoys.
  • Contact the team at Lovebird HomeCare; not only do our caregivers provide transportation to activities or events, but we also specialize in providing companionship. We love to get to know those we serve, sharing meals together, taking a walk around the neighborhood, and reminiscing about the past. This consistent connection decreases the risk of health problems that can come with isolation and feelings of loneliness.

Vision difficulties make it more challenging to thrive at home, but it doesn’t make it impossible. With the right resources and supports in place, your loved one can live independently at home.

Dehydration Dangers for Seniors

Now that we have all put away our snow shovels and winter coats for the season, it is time to look forward to all of the good things summer in the midwest brings. More sunshine and warmer temperatures mean better weather, but can also mean an increased risk of dehydration for seniors throughout the area. Here’s what you need to know when it comes to dehydration and how you can focus on healthy hydration all season long.

What is dehydration?

When you hear the word dehydration, you likely think that it’s simply not drinking enough water. While that is partially true, it is also important to note that dehydration happens when you lose more fluids than you take in. This is why dehydration risks increase in the summer season when we are sweating and losing more fluids than we are drinking.

Why is dehydration dangerous for seniors?

Anyone of any age can become dehydrated. However, seniors are at an increased risk for dehydration for a variety of factors such as medication side effects and decreased ability to sense thirst. Seniors with limited mobility, endurance, balance, or strength may also be less likely to head into the kitchen to refill their bottle of water multiple times throughout the day. Further, seniors with incontinence challenges (or anxiety about incontinence) can often dehydrate themselves in order to avoid having any accidents.

When a senior becomes dehydrated, they can experience symptoms like dry mouth, fatigue, or muscle cramping. They can also begin to feel lightheaded or dizzy, which increases their risk of falling. Most alarmingly, dehydration in seniors often causes acute, or sudden, confusion. This is scary for family members and for the seniors, and prolonged dehydration can also contribute to urinary tract infections, another cause of sudden disorientation.

Long story short, dehydration can cause dangerous side effects in older adults.

How can I help my aging loved one stay hydrated?

The best way to avoid dehydration in the summer season is to practice good hydration habits all year long. Here are a few ways you can empower and assist your aging loved one to make fluid intake a priority.

Keeping water bottles handy is one way to encourage good hydration habits.
  • Encourage water over all other fluids. This doesn’t mean your loved one has to give up their morning coffee or evening tea. However, it does mean that they should focus on drinking water above juice, caffeinated beverages, or alcoholic beverages. A good tip is to have a cup of water before your morning coffee and then throughout the day.
  • Invest in a few reusable water bottles or cups that your loved one can keep throughout their home. We recommend putting one by the bedside, by a favorite chair in the living room, and one that stays in a bag or purse.
  • Review medications with your loved one’s physician. You may be able to switch out a few medications so they do not cause dehydration as a side effect.
  • Keep foods that are high in water content prepared in the fridge so your loved one can snack on them any time. Try chunks of watermelon, slices of cucumber, or grapes.
  • Ensure your loved one is dressing appropriately for the weather. Wear layers of cool, thin fabrics.
  • Make sure your loved one is running their air conditioner as needed so that their home is cool and safe.

The best way to ensure your loved one is staying hydrated is to constantly cue drinking water throughout the day. That’s where the team at Lovebird HomeCare comes in. Our caregivers provide a constant source of companionship and support to our clients, and we are sure to remind them to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Call us today to talk more about our services and how we can serve you and your loved one.

Let’s all raise a glass (of water) to good hydration and health this summer!