I’m sure that everyone is slightly disappointed in the much-awaited UK heatwave this week (chance would be a fine thing), but it remains important to look out for the elderly and people living with dementia during this time of year. Despite popular belief, one of the most common symptoms of dementia, memory difficulties, does not just attribute to lost door keys or the inability to recall what day of the week it is. In fact, hot weather can affect people living with dementia in many ways.
People with dementia can forget to drink regularly, which may lead to dehydration, especially in hot, summer conditions. They may even refuse to drink. A person’s overall risk of dehydration generally increases with age, due to a natural loss in one’s sense of thirst or taking medication that promotes fluid loss. It could be the case that someone is unable to express that they are thirsty or unwell due to the heat because of communication difficulties.
This can be avoided by encouraging someone with dementia to eat foods with high water content such as jelly, berries, or fruit. You may also wish to invest in some colourful cups that are proven to be more appealing and increase liquid consumption. These cups can be placed around the house if the person with dementia lives alone and can be used to draw attention to the need to hydrate.
In case you are worried that someone you know may be dehydrated, symptoms include feeling thirsty, dark yellow and strong-smelling urine, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, a dry mouth; lips; and eyes, feeling tired and urinating less than 4 times a day.
You should ensure that main areas of the house are shaded, especially if the person with dementia lives alone and doesn’t usually open or close the blinds or curtains. If possible, avoid leaving the house between 11am and 3pm on particularly hot days, as this is when the sun reaches its peak. Caution should be taken at around 30°C.
This being said, it is important for people with dementia to have access to the vitamin D that the sun provides, and the outdoors can be a great stimulant. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to cognitive impairment, so a healthy balance of sun and shade this summer is the right way to go.
If you have any questions about how hot weather affects those with dementia, please contact us on 01474 533990 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.