Aging Today

By Bob Roth

Dog days of summer – are you prepared?

Managing Partner of Cypress Homecare Solutions

People have called this time of the year the “dog days of summer” for a long time.   For those of us not aware of this fact, the name comes from the rising of the star Sirius during the late summer months, which Greek and Roman astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs and bad luck. Not so sure about the fever, mad dogs and bad luck, but for those of us that live in the Valley of the Sun, the other descriptions are spot on.  Get it? “Spot” on.

Last year I wrote a similar column with the focus on older adults staying cool and hydrating. More particularly, the content of my column was centered on activities and keeping older adults active but safe during this dangerous time of year. My focus in this column is centered on protecting seniors from the heat, sun, storms and brown/black outs, and the unexpected.

If you have ever lived through a Phoenix summer, you know it takes some preparation to make it bearable. Seniors are more prone to heat-related illnesses because they are more sensitive to heat than younger generations.  Aging adults simply fail to see the warning signs of heat-related illnesses or injuries until it is too late. As we age, the response of our bodies to higher temperatures also changes. Here are a few tips for this summer:

  • Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat that shades your face, neck and ears.
  • Seek shade whenever possible.
  • Wear sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher as well as UVA and UVB protection.
  • Reapply sunscreen regularly, especially after swimming, perspiring heavily or drying skin with a towel.
  • Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Avoid direct sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • If you need or desire exercise, go to a mall where it is air conditioned and you are protected from the sun.

Another important thing people tend to forget about is how their medication and diet might affect them. Medications that encourage dehydration and loss of electrolytes need to be combated with lots of water. Low-carb diets also require a lot of water, since the extra protein can cause the body to heat up.

With the monsoons now upon us, we need to remember there are many older adults in our community that are dealing with life’s challenges. Combine this with extreme weather and this can and will only make matters worse. So how do you protect your loved ones from one of these weather events occurring? First, you need to put a plan in place so they are prepared.  When the inevitable happens, your aging loved one will know exactly what they need before, during and after the storm. You will rest easy knowing your aging loved one is prepared.

Severe storms aren’t the only weather condition we must prepare for. The items listed below can also help in the case of other emergencies such as a power outage during our sweltering summer heat.

We recommend you prepare for an emergency situation by gathering these items in advance:

Emergency kit: includes water (one gallon per person per day for a minimum of three days), food (nonperishable), battery-powered radio with extra batteries, flashlight with extra batteries, first aid kit, whistle and flares, matches in a waterproof container, face mask, plastic sheeting and duct tape for a shelter-in-place, moist towelettes and toilet paper, garbage bags and plastic ties, wrench or pliers, scissors and knife, manual can opener, local maps, and a cell phone with a solar charger or inverter.

Medical needs and documentation: medications, copies of prescriptions, contact lens supplies or spare eyeglasses, and important legal documents like a copy of your birth certificate, advanced directives, important phone numbers and insurance policies.

Protective wear and resources: blankets and pillows, one change of clothing and footwear per person, gloves, coats and rain gear.

If some prescriptions your loved one is taking need refrigeration, we recommend you have a small cooler available so you can use ice to keep the medication cold.  There are valuable online resources for disaster preparedness, including  FEMA and the Weather Channel’s Weather Ready.

Just remember the old saying: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  A little precaution in our case – planning before a crisis – is preferable to a lot of fixing up afterwards.