(WFXR) — The dangerously high temperatures can lead to all sorts of health problems such as heat stroke, heat cramp, and heat exhaustion according to Ready.gov.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) says the extreme heat can also have major impacts on families affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related illnesses.
“The dangers of extreme temperatures, which can cause heat stroke in a matter of minutes, are magnified for someone living with dementia. Dementia-related illnesses can impair a person’s ability to know when they are thirsty or in danger of overheating, communicate basic needs, and remember heat safety protocols,” said Jennifer Reeder, LCSW, SIFI, AFA’s Director of Educational and Social Services. “Taking a few simple precautions can go a long way toward keeping your loved one safe.”
The AFA provided several heat safety tips:
Help the person stay hydrated
- Caregivers should monitor those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related illnesses because it can diminish the person’s ability to know if they are thirsty.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks because they can contribute to dehydration
Watch for hyperthermia
- Caregivers should look for signs of hyperthermia which is caused when the body can’t regulate heat from the environment.
- Health officials say those with chronic medical conditions are most at risk
- They also warn that heat stroke can be dangerous because it is a mixture of heat and humidity or body temperature sparked by exposure to extreme environmental heat
- Health officials say there are warning signs to look out for such as excessive sweating, exhaustion, flushed or red skin, muscle cramps, fast pulse, headaches, dizziness, and nausea
Watch out for wandering
- Some people with Alzheimer’s disease will wander which can lead to that person becoming lost or disoriented
- Health officials say caregivers should engage the person in physical stimulation by walking around the home, or mentally through activities and engaging conversations
- If someone does wander off it is important to keep a recent photo and medical information on hand to share with emergency responders in the event of a search and rescue effort
Look for signs that something is amiss
- Health officials say to look for sudden changes in mental status, dizziness, rapid pulse, dry skin, or if they are hot
Take immediate action
- Health officials say if the person faints, has excessive confusion, or becomes unconscious to call 911
Know where to cool down
- Know where there are “cooling centers” where people who do not have air conditioning can go
- These centers can include senior centers, libraries, community centers, and other municipal/public buildings
- When there is a blackout or power failure, make sure cell phones, tablets, and other electrical devices are fully charged
- Make sure flashlights are nearby in case of a power failure
- Keep emergency contacts nearby for utility providers, police, and fire departments
Have a long-distance plan if necessary
- Have someone who can check up on that person
- Make sure they have emergency contacts and know where important medical information can be found
- Double check there is plenty of water and access to air conditioning or other cooling mechanisms available
For more information about caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, you can talk to a licensed social worker by calling the AFA Helpline at 866-232-8484, sending a text message to 646-586-5283 or you can chat online on the AFA website.