It’s the middle of summer and as the saying goes, “Some like it hot.” While some people love the high temperatures that come with the summer months, the heat can be downright dangerous for older adults, including people living with dementia.
Older people may have multiple health conditions making them more prone to heat-related illness. They also may take prescription medications that affect their ability to regulate body temperature.
For people with dementia, the risks are magnified. “Dementia impairs a person’s ability to tell if they are thirsty or to remember if they drank water,” said Salli Bollin, executive director of MemoryLane Care Services. “Keep a very close eye on older adults and people with dementia during the summer.”
Heat-related illnesses range from heat rash, sunburn and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, cold, pale and clammy skin, weak pulse, nausea or vomiting, muscle cramps, tiredness or weakness, dizziness, headache or fainting. Heat stroke is considered a medical emergency. Symptoms include a high body temperature (103°F or higher), hot, red, dry or damp skin, strong pulse, headache, dizziness, nausea, confusing or fainting.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s important for older people to stay cool and stay hydrated, particularly during times of excessive heat. Here are a few tips from the CDC:
- Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. If your home doesn’t have air conditioning, contact your health department or locate an air-conditioned shelter in your area.
- Do not rely on a fan as your main cooling source
- Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink
- Don’t use the stove or oven to cook – it will make you and your house hotter
- Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing
- Take cool showers or baths
- Do not engage in very strenuous activities and get plenty of rest
“When it’s hot, make sure you check in on relatives and neighbors more often,” Bollin said.
If you worry someone is experiencing a heat-related illness, call their doctor or 911.