USC Health advice: “An elderly person may not even be aware of being thirsty or feeling too hot, especially if suffering from dementia or diabetes, which diminishes sensation,” said Hirsch. “Many medications, such as tranquilizers, can blunt an individual’s awareness of discomfort, as can alcohol.”
Hirsch offers several of steps to help keep a house or apartment as cool as possible:
• Vacuum or change the filters in air conditioners. A clean filtration system offers both efficiency and more sustained cooling capabilities.
• Keep the sunshine out. Use shades or draperies on sunny windows. Outdoor awnings also can make big difference in keeping heat out of the house.
• Reflect light and heat away from the house by covering pieces of cardboard with aluminum foil on one side and placing it in the windows (preferably on the outside) facing out during hot days.
• Use portable fans for rooms that are used the most, such as the living room and bedroom.
With high temperatures, it’s especially important for the elderly to follow heat-wave precautions:
• Stay in the coolest place as much as possible, and avoid too much activity. Usually the coolest part of a house is on the first floor. Outdoors, in the shade, may be cooler than indoors, especially if a breeze comes up.
• Use the air conditioner! Many elderly people avoid turning it on to save money. If there is no air conditioner or the power has gone out, seniors should try to spend at least a few hours in an air-conditioned public place, such as a library, shopping mall, movie theater or restaurant.
• Eat lightly and drink plenty of fluids. Avoid alcohol and drinks with caffeine. Don’t take salt tablets unless advised to do so by a doctor.
• Make use of hand-held, battery-operated fans and misters. These inexpensive gadgets usually can be found in many stores. They can be life-savers during hot weather, especially if the power goes out.
• Rub wet washcloths over your wrists, face, and back of neck. For a quicker cool-down, wrap ice cubes in a washcloth or use packs of frozen vegetables or blue cooler packs.