Check on elderly loved ones during heat waves just as you would during any emergency or natural disaster. Take these steps to keep them safe:

— If the home has air conditioning, be sure it is in good working order. If your loved one is worried about cooling costs, look into resources that help seniors pay their energy bills. You may be able to purchase a programmable thermostat, which will automatically control home temperatures. If the air conditioner is an older model, it might be worthwhile to get a new energy-efficient one that is cheaper to operate.
— If the home is not air-conditioned, open windows to let in cooler air during early morning and evening hours. Close drapes and blinds to block out the sun and use fans to circulate air.
— If it is impossible to adequately cool your loved one’s home, get them to a place that is air-conditioned. This might be a great day to take Mom on an outing to the mall, or to the local Senior Center. If your parents use in-home care services, work with the agency to find resources to help manage the temperature in the home or to transport your loved one to a cooler place.

Many communities offer daytime cooling centers, located in community centers, libraries, senior centers, schools and fire departments. Learn about these shelters ahead of time. If your loved one has a pet, find out if there are pet-friendly centers in the area.

Encourage your loved one to drink plenty of fluids. Our thirst mechanism is less sensitive as we grow older, so offer fluids even if your older parents don’t seem thirsty. (People who are on a fluid-restricted diet should consult their physician before changing their fluid intake.) Fresh fruit also is a good source of fluids. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can increase dehydration.

Help your elderly parents dress in lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothes. Natural fabrics, such as cotton and linen, are coolest. Many synthetic fabrics trap heat and perspiration against the body.

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– John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions. He can be reached at: (781) 378-2164; email: jdmiller@homecarepartners.biz ; or online at: www.homecarepartnersma.com

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