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Warm weather is a fact of life in the summer, but climate change is pushing temperatures to record highs, even in regions that don't traditionally see warm weather. This is more than just an inconvenience. Seniors are extremely susceptible to heat-related conditions, meaning a freak heatwave can pose serious risks to their health, especially for those living in regions not adapted to warm conditions. Luckily, there are ways that you can help keep the seniors in your care pleasantly cool, even in the most sweltering months.
Tips To Stay Cool in the Heat!
Check Your AC
If you're fortunate enough to have air conditioning, it's important to check it regularly during the summer months, particularly in humid, coastal areas like Florida, where algae can build up in the system and cause a system failure at the worst possible time.
One easy and commonly overlooked maintenance piece is checking your AC filter. Once it becomes visibly dusty, consider replacing it. The exact frequency varies depending on the type of HVAC you have, but changing it too often is far less dangerous than forgetting to change it at all.
If you live in an area where central AC is uncommon, you may want to consider installing a heat pump. These devices, which use the same principles as the refrigerator in your kitchen to transfer heat, are reversible, allowing them to function as heaters in areas with mild winters. They're extremely energy efficient and often less expensive to run long-term than a traditional HVAC.
If installing an entire HVAC is not feasible for your situation, you might be able to buy or rent more portable models. These are capable of cooling smaller spaces like bedrooms but struggle in the face of larger spaces like cafeterias and rec rooms.
Even if you don't have an HVAC system, you can reduce the temperature of a building by limiting the amount of sunlight entering through windows. Sunlight is a source of radiant heat, meaning that there does not need to be direct contact between atoms for it to warm things up. A common mistake people make when cooling a space is keeping all their doors and windows shut while allowing natural light to stream in. While keeping out all that hot summer air, you're effectively turning your home into a greenhouse. If your home is designed to retain heat, you could end up with an interior temperature that's warmer than the outside!
Keep any shades, curtains, or blinds drawn during the day during a heatwave. While it's not the most aesthetically pleasing look, it will reduce radiant heat transfer. At night, open several windows to allow hot air to escape. Be sure to choose windows with screens to prevent insects from getting inside.
Consider a Swamp Cooler
You may have seen those small "personal air conditioners" for sale online or at your local store. These are actually swamp coolers, also known as evaporative coolers, and work by using moisture to cool air. Unlike traditional air conditioners, they even work in outdoor spaces like patios, making them a good choice for keeping cool while still enjoying the summer weather. Swamp coolers work best in arid environments. Humid air is already too moist to benefit from evaporative cooling.
While these devices can be very effective, we don't recommend using the desktop models: they're basically glorified humidifiers with a fan attached. Instead, look for larger models the size of a mini-fridge with a decent-sized water tank. You should also be sure to check your swamp cooler regularly for mold: humidifier cleaning solutions can help reduce the risk of contamination.
Know Where Your Towel Is
Another way to take advantage of evaporative cooling is to use a towel. You might have seen fancy cooling towels for sale at sporting goods stores, but even a regular kitchen towel can keep you cool when used properly. Simply soak the towel in water, wring it out until it's damp, and snap it in the air before applying it to your head or neck. The evaporating water will help lower your body temperature, making this an inexpensive way to keep cool on a hot day. Be sure to re-wet the towels regularly, particularly for seniors who might have difficulty doing so themselves.
The biggest danger of summer weather isn't always the heat itself but the dehydration it causes. Our bodies use water to regulate our temperature, meaning we dry out quickly in hot conditions. This leads to dehydration, which in turn, leads to an inability to maintain a safe body temperature. Make sure that there is plenty of water readily available, and ensure that seniors with difficulty swallowing have a steady form of hydration. Be sure to monitor those in your care for signs of dehydration, such as uncontrollable sweating, dry mouth, or infrequent urination.
By keeping these tips in mind, you can ensure that the seniors in your care can continue enjoying the summer months without fear. Just don't forget to take the time to enjoy some of that summer weather when it's not scorching hot: preferably with a cool drink in hand. You've earned it.
You know what else you've earned? A quality Medicare Advantage plan. Our friends at MedicareInsurance.com provide licensed insurance agents that can help you research and compare Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans in your area today. Call MedicareInsurance.com at (800) 950-0608 today to get started!
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