High temperatures can endanger people with Alzheimer’s disease

As summers get hotter, hydration and other interventions are essential

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by Ray Burow |

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We’re barely into the summer months, and temperatures across the United States are soaring. Heat is expected to intensify as we get deeper into the season, with U.S. temperatures surpassing those of 2023 by at least 2 degrees. Translation: It’s hot, it’s going to stay hot, and rising temperatures create a health risk.

More than 2,300 heat-related deaths were recorded in the U.S. last year, the most in 45 years. That number could increase in the summer of 2024, as millions will face record temperatures. People with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia may not comprehend the danger from heat or when they’re getting too hot.

People 65 years and older are especially susceptible to multiple conditions connected to high temperatures. Caregivers can decrease their loved ones’ risk of dehydration and heatstroke by anticipating needs and adjusting accordingly. That may involve breaking away from the usual routine.

Here are some tips to stay safe during a heat wave, most of which I discovered while caring for my loved ones with the condition.

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Hydration

Sweating and releasing heat through the skin are the human body’s natural cooling systems. Those systems can be overridden in extreme heat, however, causing dehydration. Adequate hydration is essential for regulating body temperature.

Drinking water helps prevent heat stroke, but convincing someone with Alzheimer’s disease of its importance can be a challenge. They might not recognize thirst, and some seniors connect drinking to bathroom visits. They don’t want the hassle of getting up and going to the bathroom, especially if they wear adult underwear.

Find ways to lead your loved one to drink water. You might pour cold water into a glass pitcher and infuse it with slices of fruit or thinly sliced cucumber. Place water glasses briefly in the freezer for a frosty appearance. Serve with a decorative embellishment, like a paper umbrella. Pour two glasses — one for you and one for them. Then share a moment, drinking together.

More ways to hydrate

Serve foods with a high water content. Cucumbers, strawberries, watermelon, and citrus are excellent sources of hydration. Grapes are also good. Refrigerate veggies and fruits to make them more appealing on a hot day. Hydrating desserts like gelatin, puddings, and sorbets can help as well. Again, think fruit-based.

One attractive way to hydrate is to have Popsicles or any frozen juice on a stick. It brings out the kid in all of us while it also helps when it’s hot.

Even some candies can help. When a grandmother was hospitalized for dehydration, her grandson, Lewis Hornby, developed Jelly Drops. Made with water, the colorful drops provide hydration for people with dementia who forget to drink water or other liquids. They could be an option for your loved one.

Altering routines

My mother was an avid walker, especially before her Alzheimer’s diagnosis and in the early stages of the disease. Her daily routine involved walking the mile path in a nearby park at least two or three times. It was great physical exercise, but a long walk in the Florida heat could prove deadly, so it wasn’t an option when temperatures soared. Walking in an air-conditioned gym or shopping mall was a better choice.

My mother-in-law loved sitting on the front porch with a good book. To protect her from the sweltering heat, however, we helped alter her routine, though sometimes we had to plead with her to do it.

She continued to go outside on hot days, but we constantly checked on her, taking her water and gently insisting she come inside to the air conditioning. There were days when she seemed to be on a rotation, spending 20 minutes outside followed by 20 minutes inside.

Medications

Some medications can affect how the body regulates temperature. Speak with your loved one’s primary healthcare provider to learn if their medicines increase the risk of heat-related conditions.

Caregivers can help keep their loved ones safely hydrated this summer, even when the heat index is dangerously high. And they shouldn’t forget to apply the same hydration tactics to themselves.

Happy summer!


Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.

Comments

Teresa Slagle avatar

Teresa Slagle

I’m now early, 62 years. Started in 2021.. I was happy working in 19 years. But I was a Retina awesome job, but they Retina doctors start
Knew when I couldn’t get work anymore. I cried so much. So I’m now have Medicare . I can still drive small only, I keep praying and scares , but I keep looking if this meds works and I’m going go to see the a doctor in August . They give newer medication to slow down it… I HATE my lacks of words!!I can’t
. I go to see my 7 grandkids and others and helps me!!!

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