While summer activities mean longer, warmer, sunnier days filled with celebrations with family and friends, dementia patients need extra care and attention during these days of higher temperatures. One expert suggests that “Caregivers of people with dementia will need to be on ‘high-alert’ with the person they are caring for” to protect them from suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Dementia patients may not be able to track accurately how much water they drink daily or they may need more assistance in choosing appropriate light clothing for the warm temperatures. Make it part of your daily routine to check on those with dementia to be sure he or she is safe and taking care of himself or herself.
Additionally, individuals 65 and older are more prone to physical stress from heat-related conditions than younger people. Older people tend not to adjust to changes in temperature as easily as they did in their younger years or they may have a medical condition that impacts how their body responds to heat. Because older people are more likely to take prescription medication, these medications need to be checked to learn if they interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature. Beware of the warning signs of heat stress including any changes in behavior, especially increased agitation or physical signs such as dry, flushed skin, fainting or lack of perspiration even when it is hot.
To help those who are struggling with dementia during the heat of summer, encourage him or her to drink plenty of fluids and monitor his or her intake of fluids through use of a water bottle or pitcher to be sure adequate intake occurs. If personal hygiene is a problem, encourage daily sponge baths not only to cool down, but also to counter any lack of attention to hygiene. Also, urge older adults to wear light clothing and stay in air-conditioned spaces especially during the middle of the day. Staying cool in the summer heat is important for all individuals, but especially those older adults who struggle with dementia.