Senior Hydration Basics during the Dog Days of Summer

August 5, 2019

Summer heat and humidity can put older adults at risk for dehydration. Learn how to keep a senior loved one safe and recognize warning signs of dehydration.

The hot, humid days of summer can present unique safety challenges for seniors. Adults with high blood pressure, for example, need to be especially cautious during periods of high humidity. The summer sun also places older adults at higher risk for heat-related illnesses, like dehydration, sun poisoning, and heat stroke.

Now that the dog days of summer are upon us, it’s crucial for seniors and family caregivers to take intentional steps to stay hydrated.

5 Ways for Seniors to Stay Hydrated during the Summer

  1. Boost fluid intake: To prevent dehydration during the hot, humid days of summer, you must eat the right foods and drink the right beverages. Water is usually best. Your physician can help determine how much you should be drinking based on your weight. If you or your senior loved one don’t care for the taste of water, try adding lemon or lime wedges, cucumber slices, or berries to improve the taste. Increasing the amount of foods you eat that have high water content including melons, pears, cucumbers, leafy greens, tomatoes, carrots, and popsicles can also be beneficial.
  2. Avoid caffeine: Guzzling drinks like iced coffee and soda might taste great, but the caffeine they contain can put a senior at higher risk for dehydration. While 8-ounce cups may not have much caffeine, super-sized cups or having multiple caffeinated drinks can create a problem. Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it causes fluids to pass through your system faster. That fluid loss can cause dehydration.
  3. Limit alcohol: Summer is often a season for celebrations—many of which include alcoholic beverages. Similar to caffeine, alcohol can contribute to dehydration. If a senior will be spending time outdoors in the heat, it’s best to limit or avoid consuming alcoholic beverages.
  4. Review medication side effects: Many older adults aren’t aware that some medications increase sun sensitivity. This means medications can put seniors at risk of serious sunburn rather quickly. These medications may also cause hives, rashes, and dehydration. Review your loved one’s medications to see if sun sensitivity is a potential side effect.
  5. Plan outdoor time wisely: Whenever possible, plan outdoor activities for the coolest times of day, generally before 10:00 a.m. or after 4:00 p.m. Wearing a lightweight hat with a brim at least three inches wide also promotes better hydration by helping shade the face and neck, keeping your senior loved one cooler.

Finally, we recommend learning more about the symptoms of dehydration in an older adult. From irritability to trouble walking, the signs aren’t always obvious.

Common Signs of Dehydration

Recognizing when a senior loved one is experiencing early signs of dehydration will allow you to seek treatment before a more serious health crisis occurs. Here are some of the most common symptoms to lookout for this summer:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Dry mouth
  • Irritability
  • Sunken eyes
  • Trouble walking
  • Inability to sweat
  • Headache
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Low blood pressure

If an older adult in your community is exhibiting these symptoms, get them to a cooler location and call their physician or 911 immediately for more instructions.

While summer might increase the risk for dehydration, it’s a risk older adults face all year long. At Legacy Senior Living communities, we have programs in place to help residents stay hydrated. Call us today (423) 478-8071 to learn more about this and other safety challenges our communities help address.

Managing High Blood Pressure During Summer Humidity

August 6, 2018

5 steps to preventing a humidity-related health crisis

Summer heat and humidity can be especially dangerous to people with high blood pressure. Here’s what seniors and caregivers should know.

Many of us are aware that weather can play a role in triggering certain health problems. Seniors who suffer from arthritis symptoms, for example, often say winter leaves them feeling tough. Older adults who like to spend time outdoors working in the garden usually realize they need to be careful not to become dehydrated. But people aren’t often aware of the danger associated with high humidity and high blood pressure.

Research shows that high humidity can have serious health consequences for people with high blood pressure and heart disease. For those who live in southern climates, that’s important to know.

As part of Legacy Senior Living’s commitment to quality care for older adults, we are sharing this information for family caregivers to review.

The Connection Between High Humidity and High Blood Pressure

Experts say risk begins to rise when the outside temperature is over 70 degrees and the humidity is at 70 percent or greater. That’s because high humidity and hot temperatures cause the heart to work harder. In fact, the body might need to circulate twice as much blood per minute to remain cool than it does on an average day.

The problem is when there is too much moisture in the air, also known as high humidity, the body has a difficult time sweating enough. While most of us think of sweating as a nuisance, it’s important because it helps cool the body down. Excessive sweating also increases the risk for dehydration because it lowers the amount of fluid in the body. That places even greater strain on the heart.

Who Is Most at Risk for Illnesses Related to Heat and Humidity?

Though heat and humidity can be dangerous to people of all ages, some factors make adults even more vulnerable to a heat-related crisis:

  • People age 50 and over
  • Adults with heart, lung, and kidney problems
  • Seniors who follow a low-salt or low-sodium diet
  • People who have a circulatory disease or problems with circulation
  • Adults who take diuretics, sedatives, and blood-pressure medication

Warning Signs Caregivers Should Learn to Recognize

If you are a senior or the caregiver for one, it’s important to take a few minutes to review and learn the warning signs of heat- and humidity-related illnesses:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Disorientation
  • Rapid pulse
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Excessive sweating or an inability to sweat
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Muscle cramps or spasms
  • Swelling in extremities

If you or a loved one are exhibiting more than one or two of these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical intervention immediately. In most cases, that means calling 911 for help.

5 Steps to Preventing a Humidity-Related Health Crisis

Here are a few steps you can take that may help you or a senior loved one avoid a heat- or humidity-related medical crisis:

  1. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water and consume foods that have high water content such as cucumber, melon, berries, leafy greens, and tomatoes.
  2. Avoid mid-day heat: Heat and humidity usually reach their peak between noon and 4:00 pm. Schedule errands, chores, and outings around those times whenever possible.
  3. Wear a hat: Invest in a natural fiber hat with a brim that shields the face.
  4. Eat smart: Avoid caffeinated foods and beverages, as well as alcohol. They can contribute to dehydration and increase the odds of a heat-related crisis.
  5. Apply sunscreen: Many people fail to apply sunscreen or don’t apply it often enough. This can lead to sunburn or even a more serious case of sun poisoning. Follow the directions on the sunscreen bottle closely and apply it any time you will be outdoors or riding in a car.

For more articles and resources on health and safety topics for seniors, we encourage you to bookmark the Legacy Blog and stop back often. We share new resources every week!

5 Summer Safety Tips for Seniors

June 12, 2018

5 Summer Safety Tips for Seniors

Summer heat can present health risks for older adults. Follow these 5 summer safety tips to keep an older adult in your family safe.

As we prepare to welcome the first day of summer on June 21st, we want to take time to share a few safety tips. While most of us enjoy spending time outdoors during the summer months, it’s important to remember that the heat and humidity commonly found in the south can be especially dangerous for older adults.

Here are a few tips caregivers can use to keep seniors in the family safe.

5 Ways to Help a Senior Loved One Stay Safe This Summer

  1. Know the risks of heat and humidity
    Each year extreme heat causes an estimated 658 deaths. Older adults are at higher risk for heat-related illnesses because our bodies lose some of their ability to process extreme temperatures as we age. Certain medications and health conditions—such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma—may also worsen during the heat of the summer.Talk with your senior loved one’s physician for advice about managing a chronic health condition during the summer months. Also be sure to review the older adult’s medication list to see if any are impacted by heat or humidity.
  2. Take sun safety precautions
    This generation of older adults didn’t grow up wearing sunscreen. As a result, they don’t always follow good sun safety practices. Encourage your senior loved one to apply a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 any time they are outdoors or riding in a car. This helps to reduce their risk of developing skin cancer. Wearing a long-sleeve shirt and long pants in a lightweight, breathable fabric can also help block the sun, as can a hat and sunglasses.
  3. Stay out of the mid-day sun
    The sun is strongest between the hours of 10 AM and 2 PM. Remind the older adults in your life to plan errands, appointments, and outdoor activities around these peak sun times.Also make sure your senior loved one has a safe, cool place to get out of the summer heat. If their home isn’t air conditioned, create a list of local malls, senior centers, coffee shops, bookstores, and movie theaters they can visit that are.
  4. Encourage hydration
    Drinking water is another step necessary to stay safe during the summer heat. Most health professionals recommend drinking eight glasses a day, more if an adult is sweating or swimming.Encourage your senior loved one to keep a supply of cold water in their refrigerator and a bottle of it by their side all day.
  1. Watch for symptoms of a heat-related illness
    Make sure you and other loved ones know the early warning signs of a heat-related illness A few of the most common ones include confusion, pale skin, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, dizziness, fatigue, headache, rapid pulse, and diarrhea. Seek medical help immediately if you or a senior in your life exhibit these symptoms.

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How Respite Care Helps Families Enjoy a Vacation Together

April 16, 2018

Respite care helpsIf you are a family caregiver trying to plan a summer vacation with your own children, respite care might help. Learn more from Legacy Senior Living.

Family caregivers provide support that is crucial to the health and wellness of older Americans. The AARP estimates that family caregivers provide nearly $470 billion in unpaid care each year. From helping with bathing and grooming to preparing meals, providing transportation to physician appointments, and managing medications, it’s a rewarding but demanding role.

Being “on duty” 24 hours a day, seven days a week can take its toll on the caregiver’s own well-being. That’s why it’s important to take breaks and try to continue some semblance of a normal routine. One way to do this might be to take a summer vacation with your own family.

Summer is one of the busiest times of year for senior living communities that provide respite care. That’s because respite care is a solution that gives the family peace of mind and the senior an opportunity to enjoy a getaway of their own.

Legacy communities often receive calls in the spring and summer months from families who aren’t sure what respite really involves and how to go about finding a provider.

Let’s talk a little more about the questions families commonly ask about respite care.

What is Respite Care?

Respite care is a short-term care solution designed to give the caregiver a break. Sometimes it is just for a short period of time to attend to household duties and maintenance. Other times it is to allow the family caregiver to travel.

Respite residents receive the same level of personal care and support as long-term residents do. They also participate in life enrichment programs and wellness activities, as well as enjoy socializing with other residents at meal times.

Meanwhile, caregivers get a break from their duties. They also have peace of mind knowing their loved one is safe and enjoying a mini-vacation of their own.

Once you decide respite care might be a good solution, the next step is to tour a few senior living communities to find one that will be a good fit for your loved one.

What Caregivers Should Know About Respite Care

What should you look for when you visit a senior living community to learn more about respite care?

This checklist can help you feel confident about the senior living community you choose for your loved one’s short-term respite stay:

  • What safety and emergency call systems are in place for residents?
  • How will the community get to know your loved one’s needs and interests?
  • What does the staff do to help your loved one settle in?
  • Do respite residents have access to the same services as long-term residents do?
  • Do respite residents eat in same dining room as long-term residents?
  • What services and support will your loved one receive each day?
  • What happens when your loved one needs help overnight?
  • Will the community provide assistance with laundry and housekeeping?
  • How does the staff help respite residents meet people and connect in meaningful ways during their stay?
  • Do the community, staff, and residents feel warm and welcoming?
  • Is the respite apartment or suite inviting?
  • Will someone invite and escort your loved one to the community’s events and activities?
  • Can respite guests use the community’s transportation services?
  • How much is the daily rate for respite, and what other charges should you expect to incur?

If you are considering respite care for someone you love this spring or summer, we extend an open invitation to you to visit one of the Legacy communities. We’d love it if you stayed for lunch or dinner, too!

Using Scent to Manage Mood Changes in a Senior with Alzheimer’s

July 24, 2017

managing mood changes

Our sense of smell is more powerful than we know. One way of managing mood changes for people with Alzheimer’s is to make use of different scents.

If you’ve ever felt transported by the scent of pumpkin pie or fall leaves, then you know the power of scent. Or if you’ve ever lit a lavender candle and felt almost instantly relaxed, you also know how different scents can alter your mood.

The close connection between scent and mood could make a difference in how the symptoms of Alzheimer’s are managed.

If you’re caring for a senior loved one who has Alzheimer’s, you may have already witnessed the mood changes that this disease can bring. Whether it’s unexpected and seemingly unwarranted changes in demeanor or a trend toward aggressive behavior (often paired with cursing), mood changes can be unsettling for caregivers.

What Causes Mood Swings in People with Alzheimer’s?

Mood swings in older adults who have Alzheimer’s disease can be caused by a number of factors.

Possible Causes of Mood Swings:

  • Frustration with their inability to understand something
  • Feeling overwhelmed with too many requests or questions
  • Undiagnosed health problems
  • Hectic and/or loud environment
  • Fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Constipation

Scientists know that scents actually do affect people’s moods. This knowledge could make a difference for caregivers. Specifically, it could help them better manage difficult moods of someone they’re caring for.

How Scents Can Impact Mood

Scents work on the human brain to affect mood, but not like a drug does. A scent can trigger a memory because it’s associated with something in a person’s past.

Let’s say you grew up smelling pumpkin pie spice every Fall. If you loved Fall, the scent of those spices years later can bring back distant memories, even decades after you’ve smelled them last.

It’s called “associative learning.” That means your brain associates two events because of your past. Do you think of baseball games when you eat hot dogs? That’s associative learning at work in your brain.

Likewise, if you light a scented candle that has a mulled cider fragrance. You may think of winter holidays or ice skating. Again, it’s an association created by your brain.

Scents May Help Calm Your Senior Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease

One study showed that participants in a study reacted more strongly to odor-evoked memories than they did to verbal communication. That speaks to the power of scent in triggering reactions among people.

For caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s, that’s an important realization.

If you could trigger fond memories in your senior loved one with scent, you may be able to mitigate some of the mood swings they experience. You’ll have to experiment with different scents to find the right ones, of course. Not everyone has the same associations in place in their brains.

For example, freshly-mowed grass might trigger happy memories of summertime fun for you, but for someone who grew up in a city, there might be no association at all. Also, associations can be negative, too. When you’re experimenting with different scents, be on the lookout for increased agitation with any particular odor.

Some Scents to Try

  1. Lemon is said to have a calming effect on the mind. It can also be used to help improve concentration.
  2. This spice is also said to improve concentration, which could help your loved one when they’re feeling agitated because of confusion or disorientation.
  3. Essential oils that include rosemary are believed to improve memory and to promote alertness. Added to that is it’s also a wonderful smelling scent!
  4. Lavender is calming and may help quell stress. Any time your senior loved one is agitated, try placing a few drops of lavender essential oil in to a diffuser.

A Final Word

Finally, be patient when you’re trying to manage mood swings in your senior loved one. Keep in mind the behavior is the disease, not the person you love and care for.

At Legacy Senior Living, we recognize the tremendous job that family caregivers do. If you’d like to learn more about how our communities can help you manage a loved one’s Alzheimer’s, whether it’s by offering memory care or respite care, please call the community nearest you to schedule a private tour!