Warm Weather and Dementia: Tips and Advice
Understanding how weather changes affect the elderly, especially those with dementia, is important to ensure that [loved ones] are comfortable all season long.
With summer fast approaching, it is important to make sure that your elderly loved ones are ready for the climate change.
Here are some ways in which hot weather can affect seniors:
Homeostatic Imbalance – With rapidly changing temperatures, it is hard for elderly people to adjust to weather changes. Homeostatic imbalance occurs when an internal imbalance within the body, [which can cause internal organ issues, goes untreated.] It is important to watch out for homeostatic imbalance because it can cause diabetes and cardiac arrest. While this is a rare and extreme reaction to temperature change, it is important to be aware of such reactions to climate change.
Dehydration – Especially [with] Alzheimer’s patients, being able to detect thirst can be difficult, resulting in dehydration. During the summer months, this can be especially worrisome due to the high chance of fatigue and physical strain dehydration can place on the body. In addition to overall discomfort, dehydration strains the liver and kidney, increasing risk of infection or complications in the urinary tract. Dehydration can also cause nose bleeds, dry or itchy skin, and constipation.
So how should you help your aging parents [or spouse] battle the heat wave? Here are some tips to keep cool:
1. Increase fluid intake. This is the best and easiest way to avoid serious problems like dehydration. Not only will it ensure that your elderly parents [spouse] remain properly hydrated, but drinking eight cups of water daily can help to improve digestion. Especially for seniors who are taking lots of medication, increased water consumption is important to avoid side effects, such as constipation and dehydration. While consuming any kind of fluid is beneficial, avoid caffeinated and sugary drinks as these can actually increase dehydration through increased secretion. The best way to keep hydrated is to drink water.
2. Use Proper Ventilation. Make sure that the house thermostat is accurate in measuring temperature. If repairs are needed, get your air conditioner fixed in order to ensure that temperatures within the home remain comfortable. Purchase fans for rooms that tend to receive a lot of sunlight during the day, as this will help to circulate hot and humid air.
3. Keep an eye on your senior. Monitoring your elderly one’s comfort level is a good way to know if they are beginning to feel dehydrated or fatigued by the warm weather. If they are exhibiting symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, headache, or disorientation, your senior may be suffering from heat exhaustion. Especially when dealing with dementia patients, they may forget how to dress according to the season; so make sure that your elderly parent [spouse] is appropriately dressed for the weather and is consuming lots of liquids.
4. Keep cool. If the [temprature] is especially hot, try placing a cold wet cloth around the back of the neck. This can help to control body temperature and help cool down the body.
5. Baths. If your elderly loved one is capable, help them take a lukewarm bath. This can help to cool down their whole body and can control internal body temperatures as well. Like swimming, this is just a way to cool off during the summer, but in a contained bathtub.
Especially with dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, they may not be aware that they are dehydrated or extremely hot. Thus it is important to keep an eye on them. With proper watch and hydration, you and your loved one can beat the summer heat!