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Staying cool in warm weather - tips for the elderly and clinically vulnerable

Staying cool in warm weather - tips for the elderly and clinically vulnerable
As we approach the end of May the temperature is slowly climbing and we’re starting to see some lovely, warm summery days. For most, this heralds balmy months ahead for picnics, walks, sunbathing and days on the beach. But for many older and more vulnerable people, the warm weather does not bring such joy.

Elderly people can be at greater risk of health and social problems related to the hotter weather. So it’s important to know the risks associated with warm weather and how to help your elderly or vulnerable person to cope in the coming summer months.

Who is most affected by warmer temperatures?

A proper heatwave can have a negative impact on anyone, but elderly people and those with underlying health conditions are often more severely affected by warm weather, particularly if they are:

  • Suffering from chronic health conditions like heart or breathing problems, raised blood pressure and stroke
  • Struggle with mobility and balance e.g. Parkinson’s Disease
  • Over the age of 75
  • Suffering with Mental Health issues - especially affected by loneliness or struggle to get outdoors for social interaction
  • Taking medication that will affect their sweating or ability to regulate temperature.

How does a heatwave affect the elderly?

Heatwaves go hand in hand with dehydration - we are all susceptible to this but if your elderly person struggles to take on enough fluids in warmer temperature they can be at risk of developing heat exhaustion, heatstroke or suffering from the effects of dehydration. 

Dehydration can be a very serious condition, firstly manifesting in cramping in the limbs, generally feeling unwell or fatigued and, more seriously, causing cognitive shut down and organ failure. So do watch out for the signs and keep your elderly person cool and hydrated as much as possible.

How to cope in the heat

Stay hydrated - it’s of top importance to keep your elderly person hydrated when temperatures start to rise.

  • Avoid alcohol and excess caffeine or sugary drinks
  • Drink plenty of cold drinks - water is best but mildly diluted fruit juice is also good
  • Check that the elderly person is regularly passing clear urine.
  • If the person is bed bound or uses a wheelchair, you could consider attaching a hydrant drinking system to their bed or chair so they have easy, permanent access to cool drinking water. 
  • There is also a range of useful non-spill cups with temperature regulated lids or cups with one way drinking straws that could be used to help keep your elderly person hydrated.

Keep cool - do whatever you can to avoid exposure to the sun and to keep the surroundings as cool as possible.

  • Wearing loose fitting clothing and a hat or sun shade when outdoors is a good start.
  • While indoors you should keep windows closed and pull the blinds/curtains when the temperature is still hot outside. Leaving windows and doors open in the day only serves to allow warm air to enter the house and continue to heat up, leaving the house very hot and uncomfortable.
  • Your elderly person can keep cool by sitting on a gel filled cushion which is not only comfortable to sit on but the gel technology keeps you cool.
  • Take a cool bath or shower or splash cold water over your skin and clothing. Use a damp cloth or reusable cool pack on the back of your neck

Most importantly, if you spot any signs that the elderly person is suffering from heat exhaustion or dehydration etc immediately seek medical attention.

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May 2022