As we face a summer of extremely hot temperatures, younger adults often don’t realise the risks that heatwaves present to older people. The body reacts in different ways, depending on age and general health status. If you are over 75, or care for an elderly friend or relative, here are some tips to help stay well during hot summer weather.
Stock up on essential items
During extreme heat, it is best to avoid going out in the core of the day, from 11am to 3pm. To reduce the need for this occurring, make sure that you or your loved one are stocked up on essential goods and medicines before the heatwave hits. Keep up to date with the weather forecast, so that you can plan well ahead.
If you have essential appointments, try and book them for the earliest morning slot or an early evening slot, when the day is cooler.
Elderly people are more prone to dehydration, because the hormones which trigger thirst signals to the brain become less active. In hot weather, we tend to lose more fluids through sweating, as this is the body’s natural way of cooling down and preventing overheating. It’s best to take regular sips of iced water throughout the day, rather than drink a lot all at once.
Avoid diuretics, such as tea and coffee as this will mean more trips to the toilet, and the hydration will be less effective. Also avoid drinking alcohol, as this dehydrates the body, and also inhibits the process of rehydration.
If you care for someone with dementia who is reluctant to drink water, encourage them to eat foods with a high water content, such as fruits, salads, and ice lollies. Encourage them to wear loose light clothes, to help keep cool and reduce sweating.
Find a cool place to sit
Make sure that an elderly or disabled person isn’t left sitting in an unshaded spot. Keep blinds or curtains drawn during the core of the day, and avoid opening the windows, as you will just let more hot air inside. If you or your loved one has a favourite comfortable chair by a window, move it to a shadier spot during the heatwave.
Encourage the person to take a cool bath or shower at the beginning and end of each day to lower their body temperature. If this is not possible, sponge them down with a flannel dipped in cold water, and leave a bowl of chilled water by their side, so they can mop themselves down if they feel too hot.
If possible, set a fan next to their chair, but not directly in their face. Place a bowl of iced water in front of it, so that the fan is moving colder air towards the person.
Look out for signs of heatstroke
If the person is complaining of a headache, feeling dizzy, is breathing fast or has an elevated pulse, they may be suffering from heatstroke. Encourage them to lie down in a cool place and sip chilled water. If symptoms persist, medical advice should be sought.
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