UK summer weather is often hit-and-miss, but it's good to be prepared for heatwaves and temperature spikes. Our partners at Autumna offer advice.
Relatives of elderly people are often concerned about how a hot spell can impact their elderly loved one's health, so we've compiled this guide:
1. Tips on how the elderly can keep cool during the warmer months
2. The ideal room temperature for elderly people
3. Heatstroke symptoms
Tip 1. Limit direct sun exposure
Elderly people can avoid the worst of the summer heat by scheduling activities during cooler hours. We suggest early-mid morning or late afternoon and evening. If you need to attend appointments, ask if slots are available at the start or the end of the day. This will reduce harmful exposure to UV rays during peak hours.
Tip 2. Drink more water
This is the most obvious tip and for good reason. Elderly people are at risk of dehydration during hot weather due to water loss through perspiration. The standard 6-8 glasses of water recommendation for mild weather increases to 10 glasses during a hot spell.
Tip 3. Wear light-coloured clothing
Avoid dark clothes like black and navy, where possible. Colours such as white or pink don't absorb as much heat and can deflect heat. T-shirts and light blouses are usually preferable on warm days.
Tip 4. Use fans
Place a standing fan where you're likely to be during the warmest hours of the day. You can then move the fan to the bedroom at night. A mini hand fan can also be a practical tool for when you're outside.
Tip 5. Eat cold foods such as salads or smoothies
One of the best ways for elderly people to manage the summer heat is by reviewing meal plans. Cooler foods such as salads and smoothies can help with heat relief. For those who are allowed ice cream, this can also be a good idea (now and then!)
Tip 6. Try ice packs
These are useful for being able to dab your face and chest with something cool. Freeze ice cubes in advance and place them in a zip-up bag when you need them. Keep a towel nearby for any drips as the ice begins to melt.
Tip 7. Switch duvets for light sheets
A thick duvet is cosy during winter, but it can do more harm than good in the summer. You'll need to keep your body temperature relatively cool to sleep well. In hot weather, change the bed linen to a lighter sheet to avoid overheating at night.
Tip 8. Cool off with foot baths
Have you ever had a foot bath? If not, then a heatwave is the perfect time to give it a go! Pour some cool (not freezing) water into a bucket for easy heat relief. You can dip your feet in the water whilst sitting in a comfortable chair.
Tip 9. Take a trip to the woods
If you're able to venture out, spending some time in the woods could be a great idea. The canopy of trees in bloom provides much-needed shade from the sun.
The NHS advises that the ideal room temperature for elderly people is at least 18°C. However, this guideline relates to staying well in cold weather. Health In Aging states that when the temperature is over 80°F (26.7°C), seniors ought to take precautions to reduce the risk of overheating.
Bear in mind that the temperature inside your home can vary from the temperature outside but installing a thermometer may help you feel more at ease and able to control the situation.
If the temperature in the home does reach 26-27°C, you can take action using the 10 tips mentioned above.
Heatstroke symptoms in the elderly are the same as they are for people of other ages, but there are two risk factors for seniors to pay attention to:
1. Over 65s are more likely to have underlying health conditions that make a case of heatstroke even more serious.
2. Heatstroke symptoms in the elderly may be ignored, due to mistaking the symptoms for those of known health conditions.
Common symptoms of dehydration include thirst, dizziness, darker urine, and urinating less than four times a day.
People with diabetes are more susceptible to dehydration. Those taking diuretic medications (that make you urinate more) also need to be careful.
The risk of heatstroke is lowered if early symptoms of dehydration are addressed.
These are the main heatstroke symptoms to watch out for:
These are a few other sensible strategies for managing the summer heat:
Autumna offers free advice on all elderly care issues. You can search for local care options at home and in the community or for more information visit their advice pages or call their team of experts on 01892 33 53 30.