We’re in the middle of a heatwave and the UK is enjoying some of the hottest weather we’ve ever experienced. From the sunbathing to the barbecues, this beautiful weather offers a lot of positives, but not everyone enjoys it. Whilst the hot weather is putting the majority of the UK in a great mood, the rising temperatures can lead to a long list of health problems, especially for the elderly.
At Sova Healthcare, we’re a leading provider of private home care and domiciliary care services across the the UK. To support family members and carers, we’ve put a list of tips together to help you care for the elderly during a heatwave, so that they can stay safe and enjoy the beautiful weather.
Symptoms of Overheating
In order to keep your loved ones safe and comfortable during a heatwave and the summer season, it is crucial that you’re able to recognise the symptoms of overheating, heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Symptoms of overheating include:
- Behavioural changes
- Feeling sick
- Feeling dizzy and weak
- Fainting or feeling faint
- Muscle spasms or cramps
- Swollen ankles
- Dark urine
What is heat exhaustion and heatstroke?
Heat exhaustion is triggered when your core temperature reaches at least least 104°F. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke. Heatstroke is much more serious than heat exhaustion, as it can lead to shock, organ failure and even brain damage. In extreme cases, heatstroke leads to death.
What causes heat exhaustion and heatstroke?
When your body cannot cool itself and its core temperature is raised, it can lead to heat-related illnesses. In order to stay cool when the climate is hot, your body dissolves sweat. However, during hotter, humid days, the increased moisture in the air slows the sweating process , making it difficult for your body to cool down. This, in turn causes your temperature to rise even further, which leads you to become ill. Dementia patients are more at risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke during the hotter months, as they may forget to wear lighter clothing, or stay hydrated - which poses a huge risk.
How to keep your loved ones cool
Staying cool during the summer months requires much more than just drinking iced water. In order to keep your elderly relatives, friends and patients safe, you should:
1. Give them time to refresh
Having regular cool showers, baths and washes is a great way to lower body temperature, and is a great way to keep someone feeling refreshed. People with dementia may forget to wash or shower - you just need to be patient and suggest that they cool down with a quick wash or cold shower. If you’re planning on going out on a day trip or excursion, you should take some damp washcloths in a cool bag with an ice pack. This is a great way of quickly cooling someone. If your relative is suffering from dementia and becomes confused or irritated by you giving them cool washcloths, be patient and explain what you are doing. Find out more about how to communicate with a person with dementia.
2. Take a rest
Maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle is always encouraged - even more so for patients with dementia and other diseases. However, during the hotter months you should keep strenuous physical activity to a minimum, as it can cause excess sweating, which leads to dehydration, and will hinder the body’s ability to stay cool.
3. Eat cool foods
To ensure your elderly relative, patient or friend is consuming enough water, you should give them foods with high water content - the benefit of this is that it will also help them stay cool.
Salad foods such as cucumber, iceberg lettuce and celery, vegetables such as cauliflower and peppers; and fruits like strawberries, grapefruit and melon are ideal! Depending on what stage of dementia (find out more about the seven stages of dementia) your loved one or patient is at, you should consider whether they can safely swallow these foods.
4. Wear lighter clothing
Cotton clothing and looser tops, dresses and shorts are a simple way to help maintain a safe core temperature. Avoid tight clothing and darker colours, as they tend to absorb heat.
5. Don't go outside during peak hours
The day is hottest between 11am and 3pm. During this time, you should stay somewhere cool, and only go outside during the cooler times of the day– before 11am and after 3pm.
6. Close blinds and curtains
Closing blinds and curtains during the day is a great way to stop the sun shining inside a room and heating it up!
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with dementia, why not reach out to one of our friendly professional team to see what we can do to help and support you every step of the way.