Regular summer heat is difficult enough to contend with. But, with the record-breaking heatwaves that rolled into Europe recently, it has become even harder to deal with the scorching season. People have amassed in pools and beaches to stay cool, with some even bringing their pets along.
On July 25, a 38.1°C temperature was recorded in Cambridge. This is the hottest temperature recorded in the UK since the 38.5°C marker in 2003, previously the hottest temperature recorded in UK history. And while it seems like the heat is slowly letting up, experts forecast that new bouts of heatwave will once again roll across the continent in August.
For younger people, staying cool in this weather isn’t too difficult. They can easily jump into the pool or take a shower whenever they feel like it. But for the elderly who aren’t so spritely anymore, keeping cool and comfortable is a bit more challenging. This is because:
- Their bodies do not adjust as well to sudden or extreme temperature changes
- Chronic conditions can change their bodies’ response to the heat
- Some prescription medication can impair their bodies’ ability to regulate their temperature
- It may be more difficult for them to move around to seek cooler temperatures
With older adults in your family being more prone to dehydration, heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses, it is vital to make sure they stay cool, whether they’re your parents at home or your patients at a care home. We have a few tips to help your senior loved ones stay healthy, safe and comfortable in the midst of the UK heatwave.
1. Don’t wait until they’re thirsty
Drinking cool water is the key to staying hydrated when the weather’s too hot. So, remind your elderly family member, patient or friend, to drink water every couple of hours instead of waiting until they’re thirsty.
Steer them clear of alcohol or caffeine, too, as these beverages are diuretics, which can induce urine production. Too much urination on hot days can cause dehydration due to the loss of bodily fluids and electrolytes.
2. Eat cool snacks and light meals
Popsicles, frozen peas and slightly frozen grapes make for great heatwave snacks. For more substantial meals, make the elderly eat something light and cold, like chicken or pasta salad. These types of food are light and refreshing, which helps the body stave off the feeling of heat.
3. Keep the blinds shut
In this heat, the air conditioning unit is everyone’s best friend. But, some may opt to open their windows for a nice, fresh breeze. This is a no-no. To make the most out of the cool indoor air, keep the blinds shut and the windows closed. Doing so keeps the cold air in and the hot air out.
4. Limit their time outside
Getting exercise, like short walks outside, is good for people getting on in age. You just have to make sure that they don’t spend too much time outside, especially when it’s hot. Have them stay cool and hydrated indoors between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm since this timeframe is when the sun’s at its strongest. Keep their skin protected too by applying sunscreen with a broad spectrum SPF of at least 15.
5. Look out for signs of overheating
When the elderly in your family complains about cramps in their arms, legs or stomach, or of lightheadedness, weakness or fatigue, these may be signs of heat exhaustion. If they experience these, make sure to call 111 or their GP so they can immediately receive the care they require.
As people age, their bodies aren’t as well equipped to adjust to extreme temperatures. That is why in a heatwave, it’s essential to be extra vigilant about keeping monitoring and maintaining the body temperature of the elderly persons in your care.