Rising temperatures are a concern for the elderly
OUACHITA PARISH, La. (KNOE) - Temperatures in the Ark-La-Miss are rising, and doctors say that the elderly population is at an increased risk for heat-related illnesses.
Loretta Hudson, executive director of the Ouachita Council On Aging says that the heat is a serious issue, especially for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
“With this diminished capacity, they’re not able to understand how their body is regulating heat and cold,” Hudson said. “Since the rising of the heat and the triple digits with our vulnerable population, which are seniors, we’ve noticed that there has been heat exhaustion in some areas.”
There are tips for family and neighbors who might need to make sure these residents are safe.
“It’s important that those people are as careful as they can be to stay out of the heat and limit their exposure to the heat,” said Dr. John McCready with Glenwood Medical Mall. “But also their neighbors to go ahead and check on them whenever it’s possible to make sure that something hasn’t happened and that person wasn’t able to call for help.”
Other factors to look out for are clothes that might be considered too heavy for the heat.
“You can also check to make sure that they have light clothing to make sure that they don’t have a heater on as well,” Hudson explained.
Most importantly is to make sure they are hydrated.
“Continually drinking water even if you don’t necessarily feel like you need to is a great thing that keeps you from having a lot of these problems and will keep your general core temperature a lot lower,” McCready stressed.
Here are some tips from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of Louisiana:
- Make a plan. Family and friends should prepare accordingly and make 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 dress in loose, light clothing.
- Pay attention at night. Keep people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias cool by using fans and keeping the air conditioning on. At night, low temperatures can still exceed 75 degrees with little fluctuation in humidity levels, making for difficult and exacerbating sleeping conditions, heightened anxiety and increased agitation.
- Prepare for behavioral challenges. Research shows that heat can increase agitation and confusion in people. Try to remove behavioral triggers by addressing the person’s physical needs related to the heat, then tending to their emotional needs.
- Stay hydrated. 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 may be difficult to notice in a person living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, as signs like increased fatigue, dry mouth and headache may be difficult to detect. People taking diuretics, sedatives, or certain heart medication may 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 may occur in extreme heat conditions but symptoms may be difficult to detect in people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Keep individuals cool by using air conditioning at home or move to a public place, such as a senior center or shopping mall. If you must go outside, be sure to dress appropriately, loose, light clothing, wear a hat, and apply 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.
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