The heat of summer can be dangerous, and even deadly, to some of the most vulnerable people in our society, the elderly. Each year, around the world, millions are affected by illness, and injury caused by heat. During times of extreme heat sweating alone cannot counteract the effects of the rising body temperature. As a caregiver, or worker in the home care industry, the summer can be the most difficult time of the year. Learning how to protect clients from heat related injury, and illness become a large, and very important part of the job.
During the hottest part of the day, usually between 10AM and 4PM, it is recommended that outdoor activities be avoided. Instead of going down to the park, a mall, or library may be a better, and safer alternative for elderly people. Temperatures in a parked car can be as much as 30 degrees higher than the air outside, so make sure that a client is never left in an unattended vehicle. Burns can also come as a result of seat buckles, and other parts of a cars interior when the day grows very hot.
Knowing the signs of dehydration is a big step towards providing better home care for clients. As a caregiver, make sure that all clients drink plenty of water when the temperatures start to soar. Doubling water intake during periods of heavy activity in the heat is strongly advised. Drinks that contain sugar, alcohol, or caffeine can increase the risk of heat related illness, as these drinks deplete the body of the fluids that it needs during hot days.
Light colored, cotton clothing is ideal if you must take your client out during the day. Cotton allows the skins to breath, and light colors reflect heat, while darker colors absorb it. Synthetic fabrics also tend to trap heat against the skin, raising a persons risk of heat related illness.
Caregivers should always pay attention for the signs of dehydration in their clients. Too much sweating, cramps, headaches, fatigue, and a rapid heart rate are all indicators of dehydration. If taking care of an elderly person, who begins to show these signs, they should be moved to a cool place, and be given plenty of fluids as soon as possible.