Here we go again! The seemingly never-ending Vancouver heatwave has made it more important than ever to protect ourselves from the sun, heat and dehydration during summertime. With temperatures hitting a record 45 degrees in certain areas across BC, the heatwave has proven both oppressing and deadly. The ageing population, many of whom are unprepared or isolated, has been especially hard hit by the weather

But, the spike in temperature does not mean your senior loved one can’t enjoy the best of summer while staying safe. We at Lynn Valley Care Centre want to assure you that despite the hot weather, your senior family, friends or neighbours can maintain their freedom and continue doing what they enjoy during these hot times – with a little extra planning. 

Here are seven ways to help protect your senior loved ones from overheating this summer.

Always have a hat and sunglasses on hand

These accessories aren’t only stylish; they’re sun-safe too! Hats are essential for facial protection from the sun, but there are various options for better protection. The best hats for optimal sun safety are brimmed, bucket, and legionnaire hats instead of the regular baseball cap. 

Sunglasses are one of your mom or dad’s best friends during the summer, and not just because they look good. Sunglasses protect the eyes from harmful UV rays, as adding a UV coating prevents eye damage. Glasses with polycarbonate lenses have UV protection built-in and are definitely worth it. However, depending on their current eyeglass situation, mom or dad may opt for transition lenses or something a bit bulkier. If they’re spending a lot of time outside, it’s best to check in with your ageing loved one’s eye doctor to find the best option for them. 

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

The heat is no joke, but your biggest weapon against it is your most inexpensive one: water. 

Whether your loved one is staying inside, going for a walk, or getting active, they must have enough water to keep themselves hydrated. Dehydration is one of the most preventable medical issues yet can have significant side effects. The risks of dehydration include dizziness or confusion, urinary or kidney problems, a slowed metabolism, a sudden drop in blood pressure, and heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Many of these signs are easy to miss in isolated or less vocal senior loved ones. 

So, if you decide to venture out with mom or dad for an activity during the day, make sure to bring spare water bottles, and look out for places to refill them before you run out of water. If your loved one is braving the heatwave in a care centre, you’re in good hands: the staff will have plenty of water and ice at their disposal. 

Keep your space as cool as possible

Older homes are notorious for lack of air conditioning and proper ventilation. The Vancouver heatwave posed many issues for people living in hot apartments or stuffy structures. With this in mind, there are many things you can do to keep your loved one – and their home, room, or living area – as cool as possible. 

To keep a living space cool and comfortable, close curtains during peak times, keep windows open at night, use rotating fans to circulate cool air, and, if possible, ensure your air-conditioning system is running correctly. If your loved one is in a care home, you’ll want to check if their room has either AC, an in-room fan, or another heatwave plan in place. 

Minimize time in the sun at peak hours

We all want to enjoy summer as much as possible. Still, sometimes the weather can be too overbearing. For seniors, it’s imperative to try and spend as much time inside or out of direct sunlight during peak sun hours. Many fun outdoor activities, like BBQs and lawn games, can be enjoyed indoors with simple adaptations.

If your loved one still wants to get outside and get active, try organizing activities in the morning or later at night. If they’d still like to do outdoor activities during peak sun times, make sure not to overdo the exercise, and ensure there’s access to cool, air-conditioned spaces for breaks. Remember, you can beat the heat!

Wear sunscreen, and don’t forget to reapply!

Regardless of age, wearing sunscreen is the easiest way to protect ourselves from the sun and one of the most important. In fact, because the risk of developing skin cancer grows each year, over half of skin cancer-related deaths are in people over the age of 65, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. And as we age, our skin gets fragile and thinner, too.  

We always use sunscreen with at least an SPF30 (ideally SP50 to ensure maximum sun safety) and reapply every two hours (three hours at most). Check to ensure your loved one’s care assistant or care home is using the same. It is also crucial to remember to apply enough sunscreen to sustain this time frame while spreading it evenly across the body. Research states that people only use 25-50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen, which is why they always get burnt. You don’t want to put in all that time lathering up only to still suffer from sunburns, so make sure you’re putting on enough!

Keep a cold towel on your neck while indoors

If your senior parent or loved one finds it challenging to maintain a cool temperature at home, a cold, wet towel placed on the neck can do wonders. They’ll want to repeat the process as the towel warms up again. If need be, they can do so by keeping a pan of cool water next to their seat or a bag of ice nearby. As per the NCBI, the neck is one of the most effective areas to help a cool body temperature. 

Reminder: Try not to rely on cold showers to cool you down because they don’t help you as much as you might think. Rather than simply a hot or cold shower, keep the water just below body temperature to maximize coolness. 

Stay in constant contact with your loved ones

If you or a loved one lives alone, you must keep in contact to make sure you are both okay. Whether it’s an hourly or bi-hourly check-in or a phone call when you need something, it’s crucial to make sure that you keep each other safe. 

People who experience discomfort in the sun often may not realize they are at risk of a heat-related illness right away, which rings especially true for seniors. Please familiarize yourself with the symptoms and know how to identify them. The check in, check in, check in! 

For more information regarding heat waves in BC, please refer to local or provincial health guidelines. Should you or a loved one experience symptoms of heatstroke, call 911 immediately.Here at Lynn Valley Care Centre, we work hard to keep our residents as comfortable and independent as possible – and this applies to our heatwave protocols as well. If you have any questions regarding special safety measures at our facility during the Vancouver heatwave, please feel free to contact us.