NATIONWIDE — Extreme heat poses risks for loved ones with dementia.The Alzheimer’s Association suggests ways to keep people safe and comfortable. The heat can be especially stressful and …
NATIONWIDE — Extreme heat poses risks for loved ones with dementia.
The Alzheimer’s Association suggests ways to keep people safe and comfortable.
The heat can be especially stressful and confusing for people with dementia.
“People living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia can be vulnerable during extreme weather, because their judgment may be impaired and they may be unable to communicate discomfort,” said Meg Boyce, vice president of programs and services for the Alzheimer’s Association, Hudson Valley chapter. “It’s really important to take extra precautions with these individuals when there is extreme heat or other excessive weather conditions.”
More than six million Americans are living with the disease, including 280,000 people in Pennsylvania and 410,000 in New York. The disease causes changes in the brain and body that can affect the person’s sensitivity to changes in temperature.
Make a plan. Family and friends should prepare accordingly, making plans to regularly check in on a person living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias during extreme heat. Arrange alternative plans for cooler spaces, if air conditioning is unavailable, and make sure the family member is dressed in loose, light clothing.
Pay attention at night. Keep loved ones cool by using fans and air conditioning. At night, low temperatures can still exceed 75 degrees Fahrenheit with little fluctuation in humidity levels, which makes sleeping more difficult, heightens anxiety and increases agitation.
Prepare for behavioral challenges. Research shows that heat can increase agitation and confusion. Try to remove behavioral triggers by addressing the person’s physical needs related to the heat, then tending to their emotional needs.
Drink water. Increased water intake is essential to maintaining good hydration and health during extreme heat. Know the signs of heat exhaustion to avoid heat stroke. Dehydration can be difficult to notice in a person living with dementia, because signs like increased fatigue, dry mouth and headache can be hard to detect. People taking diuretics, sedatives or certain heart medication might not sweat as much as others, but this does not mean that they are not hot.
Stay indoors and out of the sun. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion can occur, but symptoms can be difficult to detect in people living with dementia. Keep individuals cool by using air conditioning at home, or go to a public place, such as a senior center or shopping mall. If you must go outside, be sure to dress your loved one appropriately, with loose, light clothing and a hat. Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 or higher.
Stay informed. Keep an eye on local weather forecasts. High temperatures are not the only cause for concern. Humidity and air pollution indices can cause breathing difficulties.
The person should be monitored regularly and seek medical attention if symptoms arise of dehydration, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
The Alzheimer’s Association can help families take measures to prepare for and cope with such extraordinary circumstances. For more information, visit alz.org or call the 24/7 helpline at 800/272-3900.
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