27 November 2023

Beat the Heat: Essential tips for caring for the elderly in hot weather

6 min read

As the heat of summer approaches, it’s crucial to pay special attention to the well-being of our elderly loved ones. Older adults are more vulnerable to heat-related issues, making it essential for caregivers and family members to take proactive steps in ensuring their comfort and safety during the hot summer months. In this blog, we’ll explore some invaluable tips to help you look after the elderly in the heat.

Fortunately, there are plenty of things we can do to help keep our loved ones safe and healthy during the hot weather. For more vulnerable people, hot weather can bring further health issues and discomfort such as breathing problems and dehydration that can result in hospitalisation.

Dehydration prevention:

One of the most important aspects of caring for the elderly in the heat is ensuring proper hydration. Encourage your loved ones to drink plenty of water throughout the day, even if they don't feel thirsty. Dehydration can sneak up quickly, and staying well-hydrated is crucial in preventing heat-related complications.

  • Avoid dehydrating drinks that contain caffeine and alcohol.
  • Help your friends and family prepare hydrating snacks such as watermelon, cucumber and strawberries – all of which have a very high water content.
  • Make it fun. Have a tea break with an older neighbour (with cake!) or make fruity mocktails (alcohol free cocktails).
  • Sit with your loved ones whilst they eat and remind them to sip at their drink – just don’t be too pushy.
  • Hot drinks are still great choices, decaffeinated tea or coffee, or hot chocolate.

 

Keep it cool:

Maintaining a cool living environment is key. Use fans, air conditioning, or open windows to promote air circulation. Provide cool towels or damp cloths to help lower body temperature. Consider using cooling blankets or clothing made of breathable fabrics to keep your loved ones comfortable.

  • Close curtains and blinds in sun facing rooms to keep them cooler.
  • Open windows when it feels cooler outside.
  • Keep icy treats in the freezer. Fruit and yoghurts are good options.
  • Encourage your elderly loved ones to stay inside between 11am- 3pm when possible and advise them not to do anything too strenuous in this time period. Perhaps take them out for breakfast or dinner so that they still get out on hotter days but during cooler times.

 

Dress appropriately:

Dressing the elderly in light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing can make a significant difference in their comfort. A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses add an extra layer of protection against the sun's rays when venturing outdoors.

  • Some people wear warm clothes by habit, especially older people who tend to feel the cold more. This can be dangerous to health when temperatures are high. Encourage light natural fabrics such as linen and even cotton.

 

Recognise signs of heat related illness:

Hot weather can cause a range of nasty side effects including lethargy, nausea, muscle cramps, and confusion. High temperatures can also have a negative effect on your skin, with heat rash and heat oedema (swelling) of the legs and hands the most common issues.

Fainting is also a symptom that the elderly can find themselves experiencing if they don’t drink enough fluids and find shade. People faint when their blood pressure drops due to the heat causing the blood vessels to expand, with body fluids moving down into the legs due to gravity.

Sunscreen protection for the elderly:

If outdoor activities are on the agenda, make sure to apply sunscreen with a high SPF to protect the skin from harmful UV rays. Sunburn can be especially uncomfortable for the elderly, so taking preventive measures is essential. Slip Slop Slap Seek Slide also applies to the elderly.

Limit outdoor activities during peak heat:

Schedule outdoor activities for the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening. Encourage indoor activities during the peak heat hours to reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses.

Regular check-ins:

Regularly check on elderly family members, especially those living alone. Look out for signs of heat-related illnesses such as confusion, dizziness, nausea, and rapid breathing. A simple phone call or visit can make a world of difference.

Medication awareness:

Some medications can increase sensitivity to heat. Ensure that your loved ones are aware of any potential side effects and consult their healthcare provider if needed.

Emergency preparedness:

Have an emergency plan in place. Make sure your loved ones know how to contact emergency services and have easy access to a phone or emergency alert system or even a personal alarm.

Caring for the elderly in the heat requires vigilance, but with these practical tips, you can help ensure a safe and comfortable summer for your loved ones. By staying proactive, maintaining open communication, and being aware of the unique needs of older adults, you can make a significant difference in their well-being during the hotter months. Let's make this summer a season of joy, comfort, and good health for our elderly family members.


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