More severe than heat cramps, but not as serious as heat stroke, heat exhaustion is a serious form of heat-related injury that occurs when the body overheats. During heat exhaustion your senior may experience a variety of symptoms, including goosebumps, fatigue, fainting, dizziness and rapid heart rate, headache, and more. If left unaddressed, heat exhaustion can worsen and turn into heat stroke, which is a potentially fatal condition. As a family caregiver, it is extremely important that you are vigilant about your parents health and condition, particularly as the weather warms up. Being able to promptly and effectively respond to heat exhaustion can be the difference between helping your parent through the situation safely, and having them suffer potentially catastrophic consequences as a result of developing heat stroke.
Use these tips to respond if your parent is suffering heat exhaustion:
- Get your parents to a cool place. Preferably, this will be an air-conditioned indoor location. If this is not available, get them into shade or in front of a fan. Remember that fans are not sufficient for cooling during warm weather, and should not be relied upon as the sole source of cooling during the hottest months of the year.
- Encourage your aging parent to lie on their back with their legs elevated above their heart level. This will help the body to cool more quickly, and process blood more efficiently.
- Encourage your senior to sip cool water or sports drinks. Avoid giving them anything with caffeine or alcohol, both of which can be extremely dehydrating. Giving drinks with sugar can make your parent feel sick, and reduce the hydrating effect.
- If available, get your parents into a cool shower or cool bath.
- If they cannot get into water, put cool, wet towels on their body. Focusing on the back of the neck, under the arms, between the legs, and the bottoms of the feet will help draw out the most heat.
- Loosen or remove your parents clothing as much as possible. Tight clothing, layers, and dark colored clothing all increase body heat.
If your senior is still feeling symptoms of heat exhaustion after an hour of cooling efforts, or their symptoms worsen, do not hesitate to get in touch with emergency medical attention.
Being a family caregiver for your aging parents can be one of the most fulfilling and meaningful decisions you can make. It can also be one of the most challenging and potentially overwhelming experiences you can have. Meeting the needs of an elderly adult, particularly one who is living with major challenges or health problems, while also juggling other needs such as caring for your children, maintaining your career, and taking care of your house, can lead to stress, diminished health and well-being, and the feeling that you have more to do than time and effort to do it. Fortunately, home care can help. Adding a care provider to your care routine is a fantastic way to fill care gaps, ensure your parent’s needs are fulfilled in the ways that are right for them, and relieve your stress. This supports a better quality of life for both of you throughout their later years.