Staying safe in the heat

Protecting our older loved ones

For many of us, the sun shining and the temperatures rising is a cause for celebration. But it’s crucial we don’t forget about the older people in our lives who find a heatwave tough.

Older adults don’t adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature. This is partly due to us sweating less as we age, which is our body’s natural way of cooling down. It’s even more difficult to stay cool for older people with significant needs and medication can also have an impact. Those with dementia or disabilities, or people who are bedbound, may be unable to adapt their behaviour to keep cool, or perhaps not even register how hot their bodies are.

Here’s how you can ensure that an older person stays safe when the temperature is high:

  • Encourage them to drink plenty of fluids, excluding alcohol
  • Advise them to keep a spritzer bottle of water nearby which can provide a refreshing uplift
  • Get them a damp facecloth, which will cool down any part of the body
  • Close the curtains or blinds of rooms that face the sun
  • Use a fan to keep the air circulating – used in conjunction with the damp facecloth will bring much-need relief from the heat
  • Advise them to take baths with tepid water – don’t make it too cold as this can divert all of the warm blood to the brain, which can be fatal.

There are some warning signs to look out for in your older relatives during a heatwave. They include:

  • Muscle cramps in arms, legs or stomach
  • Mild confusion
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Sleep problems.

If you’re concerned that the sun has negatively impacted an older person’s health, it’s vital to seek medical attention.

We can all do our bit to support older people at this time. You can pop in to elderly neighbours or call your ageing relatives and run through the checklist above to help them to remain safe and well.