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Taking extra care of older people during a heatwave

by Lindsey Nathan on 26 July 2018 08:56am 2723

keeping old people cool during heatwave

We love it when the sun comes out in this country and there’s no sign that the recent heatwave is abating any time soon. As Britain comes to the end of its second month of extreme heat, many of us are enjoying another week of basking in the never-ending sunshine, but it’s important to remember that soaring temperatures can be dangerous.

Older people can be particularly vulnerable during a heatwave; for those over 65, even normal everyday activities can be a strain when temperatures get this high. As the Mediterranean conditions continue the Met Office has issued a health warning urging people to stay out of the sun.

What can you do to help?

Call in on elderly relatives and neighbours to make sure they’re coping with the heat and staying hydrated. Temperatures like these over more than a day or two can be very uncomfortable for some and pose serious health risks, with older people especially struggling to adapt to the heat. Here are just a few ways you can offer to help:

  • Offer to go on errands, do the weekly food shop for essentials and pick up prescriptions to save them from unnecessary exertion.
  • Urge them to stay indoors during the hottest part of the day, which is typically between 11am and 3pm.
  • Accompany them on trips out of the house to the doctors, for example; giving them a lift in an airconditioned car will save them battling the heat on the local public transport. Make sure they take a hat and sunglasses with them.
  • Ensure they’re drinking enough fluids as they may be suffering the effects of dehydration before they even feel thirsty – water and diluted fruit juice are best. Try to avoid hot drinks such as tea or coffee. A good idea and a nice ice-breaker is to drop by with a bag of ice to remind them to stay hydrated in the sun, or you could give them a reusable water bottle to take with them when they leave the house.
  • Help them to make rooms in the house as cool as possible by closing blinds and curtains to keep the sun out and only open windows when it is cool enough outside, otherwise it can make the space hotter. Use portable fans for rooms that are used the most, such as the living room and bedroom.
  • Suggest they take a cool bath or shower and splash themselves with cool water.

It’s important to remember that high temperatures in the UK can be just as dangerous as high temperatures abroad; sustained hot weather like the heatwaves we’re experiencing can trigger health problems unless care is taken to keep cool.

Older people are more likely to have existing health problems too, such as heart disease, that make it more difficult for the body to circulate blood properly and dissipate heat. Others may be on medications, like diuretics (water pills), that cause water loss and worsen the dehydrating effects of high temperatures.

Just as in the case of extreme cold weather, the heat can force older people to stay indoors and become increasingly isolated – your visit could make all the difference to their mood and wellbeing.

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