Protect those in your care from the heat of the day with proper hydration and a little shade.
As a caregiver for my parents living in Arizona, where summer temperatures are normally in the triple digits, I’ve learned to adapt our daily routines according to the weather forecast. But you don’t need to live in Arizona to be on the alert for heat-related challenges.
Be aware that loved ones we care for may react to the heat more intensely than we do. While we want them to be safe and slow down in the heat, we don’t want our loved ones to lose abilities due to inactivity. Here are some tips for keeping your loved ones safe, cool and active this summer:
Pump up the fluids
Those who are ill and older often lose the internal signals of thirst. Their taste buds may not be as sharp due to aging or medication side effects. Try these ways to encourage fluid intake but be cautious about over hydration if the one in your care has a history of heart failure or kidney disease:
- Keep a tally of every cup of fluid your loved one drinks and sum it up at night. Most doctors advise at least eight, 8-oz. glasses of fluids per day.
- Remember that ice cream, popsicles or slushies count as a fluid. But keep in mind that sugary drinks, coffee and tea can actually be dehydrating.
- Focus heavily on drinking water and other liquids in the morning and afternoon to avoid incontinence issues at night.
- Make sure your loved one is properly hydrated before heading outside to avoid any complications. Offer fluids frequently — they add up one sip at a time.
Stay active and search for shade
You don’t want loved ones to lose strength, flexibility and balance when the weather precludes their usual activity (even getting in and out of the car is good exercise for many).
- Walking is great exercise, but do so during the cooler times of day such as morning or evening. Look for shade or bring along an umbrella to create your own.
- In the summer, I used to take my parents to the mall to walk in the cooler temperatures.
- For inside physical activity, use flexible exercise resistance bands for arms and legs, stand or sit and march in place, use an exercise bike or dance. Use music for motivation.
- If you have access to a pool, work with a therapist who specializes in water exercise to work with your loved ones. My dad found this refreshing and fun for many years, and it kept him strong and flexible.
- Play a game and give technology a try. Video games like bowling or golfing are fun and sneak in some movement.
If your loved ones do get out and about in the heat, prompt them to dress accordingly and bring some cool water along. Never leave a vulnerable older or ill loved one in the car without air conditioning, and make sure there is a backup plan in case of car trouble.
Amy Goyer, author of Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving, is an expert in aging and families, specializing in family caregiving and multi-generational issues. She is a consultant, speaker, writer and also serves as AARP’s Family & Caregiving Expert. Her work has been featured on The Today Show, CBS This Morning, Good Morning America, PBS Nightly News, The New York Times and Washington Post. She is also the primary caregiver for her father in Arizona.