Caring for your loved one during the heatwave
With a heatwave fast approaching, the UK is set to experience some record temperatures over the next 7 days, and a level 4 heat-health warning has been issued. While warm temperatures and sunny weather can be enjoyable, they can also lead to a long list of health problems for elderly and vulnerable people.
To support family members and carers, we’ve put a list of tips together to help you care for your relative during a heatwave.
In order to keep your loved one safe and comfortable during a heatwave, it is important to recognise the symptoms of overheating and heat related exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is triggered when your core temperature reaches at least least 40°C. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke which is much more serious as it can lead to shock, organ failure and in extreme cases, death.
It is important to pick up on the following symptoms as early as you can:
- Behavioural changes
- Ankle swelling
- Dark urine
- Feeling sick
- Feeling dizzy and weak
- Fainting or feeling faint
- Muscle spasms or cramps
Keep your loved one cool
Taking regular cool showers, baths and washes is a great way to stay feeling fresh and lower your core body temperature. People living with dementia may forget to wash or shower an our carers have been fully trained in positive encouragement and support with this. We recommend that during the heatwave you avoid outings where possible and keep your surroundings cool. If your relative is suffering from dementia and becomes confused or frustrated by you washing them, remain patient and try to encourage them.
While we encourage our clients to be as active as possible, during a heatwave it is important for the body to be rested, with some light movements throughout the day to promote circulation. Any strenuous physical activity can cause excess sweating, which leads to dehydration, and will prevent the body from staying cool.
Close blinds & curtains
Closing blinds and curtains is a great way to prevent the sun’s rays from entering the home and will help keep the indoor temperature down. It is important to keep windows open to allow natural airflow, while ensuring your relative remains safe in their home.
Wear light clothing
Materials absorb heat in different ways so we encourage lighter fabrics in the summer months and particularly during a heatwave to allow the skin to breathe and your loved one to remain as cool as possible. Cotton clothing and looser tops, dresses and shorts are a simple way to help maintain a safe core temperature.
Eat cool foods
To ensure your loved one is consuming enough water, we recommend giving them food with a high water content – the benefit of this is that it will also help them stay cool. Vegetables such as cucumber, celery, lettuce and fruits such as watermelon, grapefruit and strawberries are ideal. Depending on what stage of dementia your loved one or relative is at, you should consider whether they can safely swallow these foods.
Useful contact numbers and guidance
Useful contact numbers:
- NHS 111 – dial 111
- Age UK advice line – 0800 678 1602
- Citizens Advice – 0800 144 8848
- Mind – 0300 123 3393
- The Alzheimer’s Society – 0333 150 3456
Please click here for the latest government heatwave guidance.