Maybe Mom won’t need the A/C this summer…
It’s been cool… too cool and too rainy.
In light of the weather disasters that are going on all over the country, it’s rather a non-issue. However, we keep our winter wardrobe handy and worry about what we planted last weekend hoping it survives.
Air conditioners, moving mom’s storm windows up and pulling the screens down, are hardly our priority. But as has happened since the beginning of time, it will go from 50 to 90 degrees with no warning at all. Elders are vulnerable when it comes to temperature changes. Many live in older homes without central air and rely on fans during the heat of the summer. Seniors are also more likely to feel a chill and keep dressing in many layers and cold weather gear, even as the temps rise.
Read on for tips to keep your senior hydrated and prepared for summer.
What do they need?
They’ll need extra attention to hydration for one. As a rule, elders don’t drink nearly enough water. Many a patient in the Emergency Room is found to be severely dehydrated as they are treated for whatever brought them in, usually made worse by dehydration. Finding liquids that are appealing, and will hydrate your elder loved one, is the trick. Coffee (iced or hot) is a diuretic, meaning that it does not replenish your fluid balance, and would not be the preferred option. Iced herbal tea, lemonade, or flavored water are among choices if regular still water is a struggle. If your senior takes a diuretic medication, talk to your primary care provider about your concerns, and get their recommendations for fluid goals for daily ingestion.
At some point, the heat will move in, and their second floor with no insulation will become an oven. Getting some fresh air with fans or window units will be crucial. If the cold weather and late afternoon darkness was a deterrent to going outdoors, the sounds of the peepers, the warmth of our summer evenings, and open windows might beckon our seniors… who have no history of wandering… to leave the house. To satisfy some momentary curiosity, this could lead to the opening of Pandora’s Box.
We have the option of being proactive or reactive. Meaning, we can help avoid a problem or respond to one. Our innate common sense tells us that there are seasonally related concerns we should have about our elders, especially those who are vulnerable and at risk. As you would prepare your own home for a change of season, dig a little deeper than the obvious and consider the accessibility of bugs and vermin to get indoors, proper storage of trash, garbage and recycling whose odors may attract wildlife, and quality of life items like filling the birdfeeders and keeping the outdoor planters watered.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
With possibly diminished senses, our elders might not feel thirsty, warm, or uncomfortable, and may not be able to articulate their needs, symptoms, or situations. Keeping a close eye, especially during extreme heat, thunderstorms, or any climate-related issue, means you are one step closer to being able to intercept or treat a problem that presents. Stay on top of your elder’s needs, even ones they don’t know they have, and you are that much closer to a “summertime when the livin’ is easy.”
Written by Joanne MacInnis, RN and Certified Dementia Practitioner.
Originally published in the Manchester Cricket Newspaper, May 2019.