Summer Heat: A Dangerous Problem For Seniors

Summer heat

Summer heat


Whew, it’s hot out there! And what’s simply uncomfortable for most of us can be downright dangerous for the elderly. Sadly, close to 400 Americans lose their lives during heat waves each year. Many of them are elderly people who don’t recognize the dangers of overheating.

To help keep your loved one safe, it’s important to pay attention when the weather forecast calls for high temperatures—especially multiple days of excessive heat. Outside temperatures don’t even have to reach 100°F for seniors to be at risk for a serious heat-related illness.

Seniors are more susceptible

Seniors simply aren’t able to manage extreme heat as well as the rest of us. It takes them nearly twice the time to return to core body temperature as a younger person.

A lot of the reason is biological. Adults over 65 don’t sweat as much as younger adults, and sweating is the body’s primary heat-regulating function. Seniors store body fat differently, which also impacts heat regulation. Obesity, heart disease, dementia, diabetes, chronic medical conditions can compound the risk as well.

Behavior plays a part, too—including eating a salt-restricted diet, overdressing in the heat, drinking too much caffeine or alcohol, not drinking water, or ignoring the symptoms of overheating until it’s too late.

Know the signs

Mild heat-related illness can cause muscle cramps, swelling or dizziness. But it’s important to watch for the signs of serious overheating, because it can lead to more dangerous conditions.

Heat exhaustion is a warning that the body can no longer keep itself cool. Early signs include excessive thirst or sweating, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache and muscle cramps. These can progress to nausea, vomiting, and fainting. Left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.

Heat stroke is a potentially life-threatening condition that can develop in less than 15 minutes, causing damage to the brain and other vital organs. If you note extremely high body temperature (over 104ºF), the absence of sweating, confusion, staggering, weak or rapid pulse, or seizures, get medical care right away.

If your loved one collapses or passes out, call 911 immediately. While you’re waiting for help to arrive, lie the person down in a cool place, remove as much clothing as possible, and pour cold water over them to help bring the core body temperature down.

Be proactive and keep cool

With hot weather in the forecast, Hearthstone Senior Living offers these tips to keep your loved one cool and lower the risk of heat-related illness.

  • Offer plenty of liquids including water, fruit and vegetable juices (avoiding alcohol and caffeine). Snack on sugar-free popsicles or fruit with high water content, like watermelon. If your senior has been told to limit liquids, ask his or her doctor what they should do in very warm temperatures.
  • Keep the house as cool as possible. If your senior doesn’t have fans or air conditioning, keep the shades, blinds, or curtains closed during the hottest part of the day, and the windows open at night.
  • If the house gets too hot, take your loved one someplace air conditioned, such as a shopping mall, movies, library or community center. Even two or three hours during the peak mid-day heat can make a big difference.
  • Dress for hot weather in loose, lightweight, and light color clothing. Natural fabrics like cotton are often cooler than synthetic ones. Have your senior wear a broad-brimmed hat outdoors, but make sure it’s loosely woven or well-ventilated so it doesn’t trap heat.
  • Limit exercise and outdoor activities during very hot weather. If your senior must be outside, have them stay in the shade and out of the direct sun.

Hearthstone welcomes you

We invite you and your loved one to take a break from the heat with a visit to Hearthstone Senior Living. Both of our Beaverton communities are cool, comfortable and air conditioned. Call today to set up a tour, then stay for lunch or one of our daily activities. We look forward to welcoming you!


Hearthstone of Beaverton:


12520 SW Hart Road

Beaverton, OR 97008


Hearthstone at Murrayhill:


10880 SW Davies Road

Beaverton, OR 97008

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Hearthstone Senior Living specializes in independent, assisted, and memory care living options in Beaverton, Oregon.

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