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By: Tracey Haughton on June 28th, 2024

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Beat The Heat! Hot Weather Safety Tips For Seniors

assisted living  |  Senior Living Communities CT  |  senior health  |  senior health tips  |  Independent Senior Living  |  healthy living  |  independent living in ct  |  aging well

Last year, a record number of Americans died as a result of heat-related illnesses. Heat-related illnesses and heat-related deaths are steadily on the rise as the planet warms and our population ages. Older adults are among the most vulnerable groups, with people over 65 several times more likely to develop heat-related health problems than younger adults.
Hot temperatures can affect everyone, but seniors are particularly vulnerable because their bodies typically do not adjust as well to sudden temperature changes. Seniors are also more likely to have chronic medical conditions or medications that can affect how the body responds to temperature changes.
It is not just important, but essential, for seniors and their caregivers to recognize and respond to signs of heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Read on to learn how you can help keep your loved one safe during the hot summer months.

What are heat-related illnesses?


Heat-related illnesses are conditions that occur when the body is not able to properly cool itself down, causing damage to the body and raising its internal temperature. Some examples of heat-related illnesses include:

  • Heat syncope (sudden dizziness that can occur from being active in hot weather)
  • Heat cramps (painful tightening or spasms of muscles in the stomach, arms, or legs, which can occur from hard work or intense exercise)
  • Heat edema (swelling in the feet and ankles from the heat)
  • Heat rash (skin irritation from heavy sweating)
  • Heat exhaustion (a serious condition that occurs when your body can no longer cool itself, which can develop into heat stroke if left untreated)
  • Heat stroke (a medical emergency that occurs when body temperature rises above 104°F).

While any of these conditions should be taken seriously and treated swiftly, it is critical to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, as these can become severe and life-threatening.

Typical signs of heat exhaustion include thirst, dizziness, weakness, lack of coordination, and nausea. While your body temperature may stay normal, you may have a rapid pulse. Someone experiencing heat exhaustion may sweat profusely and have skin that feels cold and clammy to the touch.

If you or your aging loved one experience these symptoms on a hot day, take immediate action. Drink plenty of fluids, avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks, and rest in a cool place. Get medical care if you aren’t feeling better quickly.


If heat exhaustion progresses to heat stroke, your loved one may experience confusion or act strangely, stop sweating, and even faint. Check for dry, flushed skin. A person experiencing heat stroke may have a strong, rapid pulse or a slow, weak pulse.

If you observe or experience symptoms of heat exhaustion, seek immediate medical help. Move the person to a cooler place and take action to lower their body temperature with fans, cooler clothing, and a cool bath or shower if it is safe and feasible to do so.



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How can seniors stay cool in the summer heat?


The best defense against heat-related illnesses and heat-related deaths is prevention. While they are serious conditions, seniors can avoid developing heat exhaustion and heat stroke by actively taking steps to keep cool when the mercury climbs.


First and foremost is proper hydration. Be sure to drink plenty of liquids, especially water or drinks that contain electrolytes. Steer clear of alcohol and caffeinated beverages, including coffee, as these are diuretics and can dehydrate you.


Incorporating fruits and vegetables with high water content into your diet, such as cucumbers, watermelon, tomatoes, apples, celery, and lettuce, can also help you stay hydrated.

Some seniors may have limited liquid intake. If this is the case, ask your doctor and care team about how much water is safe to drink and how to best stay cool during the summer months.

Due to several factors, including self-restriction and dementia-related confusion, seniors may be more prone to dehydration. Learn how to have the “hydration conversation” with your aging loved one to help them stay hydrated.


Stay indoors, preferably in an air-conditioned building. When planning summer events, whether day-to-day activities or family reunions, find out ahead of time whether your intended location has adequate air conditioning and shade.


If you are without air conditioning, or it is not working, keep the space you’re in as cool as possible by not using the oven, keeping your shades, blinds, or curtains closed during the hottest part of the day (typically 11 A.M. to 4 P.M.), and opening your windows at night.

Use fans to cool the space, but do not rely on them as your main cooling source when it is very hot outside. Get to a place with air conditioning during the hottest parts of the day, such as a friend’s home, library, or senior center. Secure a ride from a family member, friend, or transportation services. Do not wait in the heat at a bus or train station.


Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and try to stick to natural fabrics, as they may feel cooler than synthetic ones. If you plan to be outside, wear a hat and sunglasses. Don’t forget sunscreen. It should be broad spectrum and SPF 15 or higher. Remember to reapply it throughout the day.


Avoid strenuous activity and outdoor physical activity, especially when it is extremely hot. Find ways to incorporate senior-friendly exercise into your summer while staying cool indoors.

Keep an eye on additional risk factors. An older adult’s ability to cool themselves down can be impacted by things like:

  • High humidity levels
  • Being underweight or overweight
  • Drinking alcoholic beverages
  • Taking multiple prescription drugs
  • Having heart disease and poor circulation
  • Skin changes caused by normal aging
  • Illnesses that affect the heart, lungs, or kidneys, or that cause a fever
  • Certain prescription drugs, including diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and some heart and high blood pressure medicines.

Keeping seniors safe in hot weather


Overall, the bottom line of keeping the older adults in your life safe in the summer heat is the importance of education and prevention. Know the signs of serious heat illnesses like heat exhaustion and heat stroke, how to mitigate the situation until medical help arrives, and how to help your senior loved ones stay cool and avoid the negative effects of the hottest days.

To learn more about how a senior living community can help support your goals for healthy living, contact us today or schedule a tour with a UMH senior living advisor.


To find out how United Methodist Homes provides a wealth of offerings and opportunities to support the health and well-being of our residents, contact us today or schedule a complimentary visit now.

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