Preventing Heat-Related Illnesses This Summer
Summer is upon us, and this promises to be a hot one! While we look forward to the long, warm days for bringing friends and family together and enjoying outdoor activities, we must also make sure safety precautions are in place, particularly when it comes to vulnerable and dependent adults, such as those with memory loss.
During hot days, risk of stroke and dehydration escalates across the country. Although heat-related illnesses are preventable, more than 600 people die from extreme heat every year in the United States and thousands of others require hospitalization. Studies have shown a nearly 400% increase in hospitalization for heat exposure for every 10°F above the mean ambient temperature. And those aged 65 and older are several times more likely to die from heat-related cardiovascular disease than the general population.
Prevention is the key to keeping your loved ones safe and having a great summer with the whole family. Diligence in preventive strategies is even more important in regards to those with memory loss or any form of dementia.
Some helpful strategies to keep in mind this summer:
During warm weather, it is especially important to drink lots of fluids. Dehydration can increase risks of stroke and urinary tract infection, one of the most frequent causes of hospitalization for people with memory loss, second only to falls. Keep a cool glass of water within arm’s reach as a reminder. Add flavoring to the water to make is more interesting and tasty. Provide non-alcoholic beverages for backyard barbecues. Bring water bottles on outings and walks, even short ones.
Limit your loved one’s exposure to the sun. Place lawn chairs in shaded areas. Stay indoors between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun rays are the strongest. Encourage your loved one to wear a hat and sunglasses.
Remind your loved one with memory loss to apply and reapply sunscreen when outside for long periods of time. If necessary, apply it for her/him.
This is a matter of life or death–under no circumstances leave your loved one alone in a parked vehicle. This is of particular importance on hot days, when the temperature inside a car can quickly reach deadly levels. When it’s just 70 degrees outside on a sunny day, after 30 minutes the temperature inside a car is 104 degrees. After an hour, it can reach 113 degrees. When temperatures outside range from 80 degrees to 100 degrees, the temperature inside a car parked in direct sunlight can climb to between 130 and 172 degrees within minutes. Don’t leave children or pets in a parked car either, even in the shade.
Decision-making may be increasingly difficult for those with memory loss, so dressing appropriately for hot days can be hard. Put away winter clothes, boots, gloves, and hats, and replace them with just one or two choices of shirts, pants or shorts/skirts, a hat with a large brim, and a light jacket or sweater.
Grilling & Open Flames
Never allow your loved one with memory loss to have unsupervised access to fire-pits, the hot surfaces of BBQ grills, or campfires.
Do not allow anyone with memory loss to swim unsupervised, and do not leave children in the pool under the supervision of a person with memory loss, even for a short time.
Keep an eye out for signs of heat-related illnesses and know ahead of time what to do when you notice them. According to the Center for Diseases Control, these are the symptoms to watch for:
Protect yourself and your loved ones, and have a wonderful summer!