Seniors urged to take precautions during hot days

Caregivers need to be aware of signs, symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration

By Kim Walter

The local Home Instead Senior Care is hoping that senior citizens and their caregivers pay special attention to their medications during periods of extreme and prolonged heat.

Home Instead, Inc., franchiser of the Home Instead Senior Care network, recently sent out a release highlighting tips to help the elderly combat the heat and its side effects.

“The elderly are often the most vulnerable to severe heat,” said Jeff Huber, president of Home Instead, Inc., in the release. “Their bodies do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature, they are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat, and they are often on a prescription medicine that impairs the body’s ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibits perspiration.”

One tip suggested keeping a glass of water in every room for quick and easy access to fluids. Another said to nap or watch television during high heat times – between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. – and to save household chores for later in the evening, when the weather is cooler.

The release also noted that foods high in protein increase metabolic heat production, and can also increase water loss.

“Put away that meat loaf recipe for the summer and track down new recipes for fruit and vegetable salads,” the release stated.

Carol Davis, a nurse with the Winchester and Northern Shenandoah Valley Home Instead Senior Care, said eating more fruit is a good way to help with staying hydrated.

“Some of our folks just don’t like water, they hate drinking it,” she said. “To them, I would say try eating more watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries … things like that.”

She also cautioned against beverages high in caffeine or alcohol, as they can increase a person’s chance of becoming dehydrated.

After going through the release’s tips, Davis said there was still one thing that seniors and their caregivers need to be aware of during the summer.

“To me, someone who’s out there working with our elderly citizens, being aware of medications and their side effects is really important this time of year,” she said. “It’s something I come across constantly.”

Davis said about 90 percent of local seniors served by the business are on diuretics or “fluid pills.” Diuretics can be used to treat a number of heart-related conditions, including high blood pressure, heart failure, and kidney and liver problems – the pills help get rid of excess salt and fluid, making it easier for the heart to pump and function properly.

“Fluid pills can dehydrate someone even without the excessive heat, so you really need to check in with your doctor and see what changes need to be made,” Davis said.

Caregivers should be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration, Davis added, which can include weakness, nausea, a rapid pulse and a decrease in urination.

Davis is aware of several area seniors being admitted to the hospital due to dehydration.

“Usually, it can be avoided, you just have to be aware of what you’re putting into your body,” she said. “And especially with seniors, it’s important to know your limits.”

For more information and tips related to extreme heat, go to www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/faq.asp.

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com