Hot Weather Safety Advice For Older Adults
Some of us can remember the hot summer of 1976. Elton John and Queen were in the Top 40, and so was disco. But most of Britain just flopped into the nearest deckchair. The heatwave meant a drought, with neighbours queuing in the street for water. One government minister had an idea for saving this precious resource – he asked people to share baths with a friend.
The rose-tinted memories are fun, but hot weather can be a real hazard. Fifteen years ago, it led to 2,000 deaths as a heatwave hit the UK for 10 days. Older people are more at risk, especially if they have chronic conditions or problems getting around. Dehydration can be an issue, so can overheating, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. While we all like to get out in the sunshine, it pays to be careful.
Tips to stay safe in hot weather
If you’re looking after an elderly person, make sure they’re drinking enough, all day long. It sounds simple. But not everyone remembers how much they're drinking. It’s also possible for older people to become dehydrated before getting thirsty. And if our bodies lose more fluids than they’re taking in, it can become a serious problem.
If they don’t drink enough, they may start to get muscle cramps, or feel weak. In the daytime, they might seem a little confused. When the sun goes down, they may have trouble sleeping. So plan ahead and help put some good habits in place. You can make sure drinks are always part of a meal. You can make drinking a social thing, so a chat with visitors always means a cuppa or a glass of water. And you can make sure the kitchen is stocked up with things like soups, ice cream, and melon.
How to stay cool during a heatwave
Overheating is also a problem. If someone already has difficulties with their heart or breathing, it can make these symptoms worse. When it’s really hot, staying indoors is often best. You should be able to work out which is the coolest room in the house. Keep the curtains closed and use light-coloured fabrics if you can (because dark curtains can make a room hotter). For an extra step, you could even put some reflective material outside the windows. Being hot and tired can make anyone feel unsteady, so every little helps.
No-one wants to be stuck indoors for days on end. But during heatwaves, encourage them to get any outside chores done before 11am. Otherwise they’ll hit the hottest part of the day, and that increases the chances of fainting or falling. When they do venture out, make sure there’s a sunhat by the front door. You could also leave out a cheap travel fan. Hardware and kitchen shops sell small bottles that you can fill with water, to use as a cooling spray. Double-check emergency inhalers, as those living with lung conditions may feel their symptoms flaring up.
Take care of your health this summer
For older people, the dangers from a cold snap are crystal-clear. But when the temperature goes the other way, it’s easy to forget there are just as many health risks. So keep your eyes on the forecast and do a bit of preparation. And if you have some holidays planned, think about some extra support so you can enjoy a guilt-free break.
If a heatwave hits this summer, let’s make sure the hot weather doesn't harm your loved ones.
About PPP Taking Care
At PPP Taking Care, we’re working on the next generation of telecare products and services to help people age well. With our personal alarm services, we already help over 70,000 people stay in the homes they love. We offer 24/7 help at the touch of a pendant or alarm unit, plus a medical support line staffed by qualified nurses. We also have pharmacists on hand to answer questions on pills and prescriptions.
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