Advice for Seniors in the Sun


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There is no better place to live during the summer than on the Seacoast of New Hampshire.  The smell of the ocean reaches the Home Instead Senior Care office in Portsmouth and we know that summer is here.  Toes in the sand, fresh seafood, beach pizza and fun in the sun.  There is beauty everywhere you turn this time of year and a lot of sunshine.  There are a lot of benefits to sunshine including Vitamin D.  Just 10 minutes of mid-day sun exposure from 10:00am-12:00pm can help boost your immune system, which can lower the risk of cancers, and also lower cholesterol.  In addition to providing bone health there are some studies that also suggest Vitamin D can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.    

Sunlight Therapy, also known as Heliotherapy, can help different types of dermatological disorders such as psoriasis and eczema as well as seasonal affective disorder which many New Englanders have after the long winter months.  As for the ultraviolet rays from the sun, or UV as it is more commonly known, they have positive applications in the fields of disinfection and sterilization. UV can effectively destroy microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria, for example, when hanging wet towels on the clothesline.  

In addition to the many benefits of all of this sunshine we need to still take caution.  The UV from the sun has been known to be the root cause in most skin cancer cases related to melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.  Research shows that 90% of skin cancers are due to UV radiation.  Some New Englanders will develop a golden tan while others will turn lobster red and become sunburned if they have too much sun exposure.  Everyone’s skin type is different so make sure to listen to what your body is telling you.  If you feel like your skin is too hot, it may be time to step into the shade.  Not only can the sun have damaging effects on the skin if over exposed it can damage your eyes.  Photokerititis, cataracts and pterygium are some of the eye problems that can develop if not careful.  On a positive note, UV damage to the eyes is cumulative, so it is never too late to start protecting the eyes by wearing sunglasses. 

Even if you are out of direct sunlight the heat from the sun can still have its effect on the human body.  Remember to drink water and stay hydrated.  Often Home Instead Senior Care will receive calls from family members saying “My mom became dehydrated and she’s fallen and hurt herself.”  Sometimes older adults may not want to drink as much because they are concerned about bladder problems and potentia​l incontinence or they may have difficulty holding a cup or opening a lid.  In these instances I encourage families to set the environment up for success by providing a straw if your loved one has trouble with their hands, clearing the path to and from the restroom and having incontinence briefs discretely available in reach in the bathroom.  You can transfer drinks from large heavy pitchers to smaller ones that poor easier.  If you notice your loved one uses the restroom once every two hours, try to set a toilet schedule, a reminder to try to use the restroom, before the two hours and always after a meal.  You can also have your family member wear pants or a dress or skirt that are easily taken on and off for toileting.  This may allow enough time to prevent any accidents.  Dehydration frequently transitions into weakness, urinary tract infections and falls.  
There is only one more month left of summer.  In order to safely enjoy the sun and all of its benefits, limit direct exposure and create an environment that makes it easy to drink water and stay hydrated. 

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