Summer & Seniors – How the Heat Affects Seniors & What You Can Do to Help

Summer heat can be a dangerous thing for many people but especially for the elderly. Around 300 people die from heat every year in Canada – mainly in the Toronto & Montreal areas due to their heat waves. The majority of people who succumb to heat related health issues are seniors.

According to the Canadian Environmental Health Atlas increasing global temperatures are expected to double heat-related deaths in Canada by 2050 and triple by 2080.

Heat can make pre-existing conditions much worse and the dehydration and exhaustion from heat can result in stroke, brain damage and death. The reason seniors are more susceptible to heat illness is due to their decreased ability to sweat as well as poorer circulation and health conditions such as dementia, diabetes, heart conditions etcetera which compound the risk.

The most common ways to avoid over-heating is by staying hydrated, dressing lightly and trying to remain out of the sun and in air conditioning. Some other tips include:

  • Keeping the sun out of the house with shades or curtains to keep the temperature down
  • Spend at least a few hours per day in a cool environment such as a pool, air conditioned building or near a fan
  • Staying away from caffeinated, alcoholic or sugary drinks as they actually dehydrate more than they hydrate
  • Keep cold fruit or frozen treats available such as watermelon and sugar-free popsicles
  • Ensure that their clothing is light and airy and that any hats they choose to wear allow for air flow as heat is often trapped under hats and this leads to overheating

Remember, if an elderly person begins to feel faint in the heat get them into air conditioning as fast as possible and get them a cool drink of water to hydrate them. And if the person loses consciousness remove as much clothing as possible and put cool water or cloths on as much of their body as you can. Passing out from heat is considered a serious medical emergency and should be treated as such. Be sure to have cool water on hand as soon as the person wakes up to get them hydrated quickly.