Caregivers Community

Seniors and Sun: 5 Safety Precautions for Caregivers

Brooke Phillips, CWCMS
Editor | Shield HealthCare
07/03/14  10:41 PM PST
Seniors and Sun

With the blazing days of summer upon us, it’s important to stay alert to the hidden dangers of warmer weather. Hot summer days can be particularly dangerous for adults over 65, who are more susceptible to dehydration, sunburn and heat-related illness. Protect your loved one by taking these 5 simple precautions:

  1. Stay well hydrated. Seniors are less likely to feel thirsty, which means that dehydration can come on without warning and quickly become dangerous. Insufficient fluid intake can result in fatigue, headaches and loss of concentration. In addition, adequate hydration may help prevent urinary tract infections, kidney stones and constipation in some people. Be sure to follow your doctor’s recommendation for daily fluid intake.
  2. Check medications for sun-related warnings. Some medications can cause increased sensitivity to the sun, making seniors more vulnerable to sunburn and heatstroke. Take a few minutes to look through your loved one’s medications for sun-related warnings, and talk to your doctor about any concerns or questions you have.
  3. Wear eye protection. Older adults have very sensitive eyes. Over time, exposure to sunlight can cause cumulative damage such as age-related macular degeneration or cataracts. Make sure your loved one wears full-coverage sunglasses that protect against both UVA and UVB radiation to help reduce the risk of eye problems.
  4. Stay indoors during peak hours.  The sun is most intense and UV rays are strongest between 10am and 4pm. Try to arrange flexible outdoor activities – such as walking or gardening – for the early morning or evening when the weather is cooler. If you’re not sure when your local peak hours begin or end, check the length of your shadow: if it is shorter than you are, move into the shade or indoors.
  5. Know signs of heat stroke.  Adults over 65 are more susceptible to heatstroke, and knowing the signs could save a life. Warning signs of heatstroke include:
    • Flushed face
    • High body temperature
    • Rapid heartbeat or pulse
    • Rapid, shallow breathing
    • Dizziness
    • Headache
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Lack of sweating despite the heat
    • Red, hot, dry skin
    • Irritability or sudden mental confusion
    • Fainting, especially in older adults

If you suspect your loved one has heatstroke, take immediate action. Move your loved one out of the sun and into a cool or shaded place, and call 911 or emergency medical help. Have the person drink cool water if they are able. Cool your loved one down as quickly as possible until help arrives; place an ice pack or something cool against the back of the neck, or spray cool water on skin and clothing and fan to create air flow.

For more information about heatstroke symptoms and first aid treatment, visit MayoClinic.org or WebMD.com, which provided source information for this article.

This article is is tended for educational use only and does not replace the advice of a medical professional. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your loved one and sun risk, contact your healthcare provider.

If you suspect your loved one has heatstroke, call 911 or emergency medical help.