With the UK now experiencing much warmer weather during the summer months that usual, it is important to look out for older people to ensure they can remain healthy during periods of high temperatures. The elderly are prone to experiencing medical issues during heatwaves as their bodies cannot always adjust to cope with high temperatures as well as younger people. They can also be affected by chronic medical conditions and medicines which can alter how their body responds to periods of extreme heat.
It seems so simple, but drinking plenty of water is so important for our health and even more so during the hot weather. Adults should be drinking between 6-8 glasses of water a day and more when it is hot. Look out for the elderly by ensuring they have a constant supply of water nearby and that they are drinking consistently during the day. Some older people may want to resist drinking more as they are worried about needing to use the toilet more, but keeping hydrated can help prevent some serious medical issues. Try homemade ice lollies to keep mouths hydrated if they are resistant to drinking water.
If you are taking an elderly person outside during a sunny day, ensure they are wearing sunscreen of at least factor 30 on any uncovered areas. This should be reapplied every two hours, or if they go in the water, once they dry off. Place a hat on their head to help protect their head, face, ears and eyes and invest in sunglasses with a CE, UV400 or 100% UV protection.
Sunburn can increase the risk of skin cancer, so avoiding getting burnt is important. Look out for moles that bleed, change size, shape or colour and consult a doctor if you are concerned.
Signs of overheating can be muscle cramp in the arms, legs or stomach as well as mild confusion or weakness. If you spot these signs or someone reports these symptoms, get them to a cool place and ensure they drink plenty of water.
Heat exhaustion signs are headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, intense thirst, heavy sweating and a fast pulse. If you spot or they report any of these signs & symptoms, get them to a cool place as soon as possible and loosen any tight clothes. Ensure they drink plenty of water and sponge them with cool water and/or get them to have a cool shower.
Heatstroke can be fatal, there were 8,500 heat related deaths in older people in the UK in 2018. Look out for signs of confusion, disorientation, seizures or loss of consciousness. If you spot any of these signs, call 999 and if they have a community alarm, activate this for help while you wait for an ambulance. Try to keep them cool but do not try to force liquids down anyone who is unconscious.
Eat cool snacks such as salad or pasta rather than hot heavy meals, and make homemade ice lollies to keep them cool during the day. Apply a cool flannel to the back of the neck and replace frequently to keep cool, place their feet in a cool water bath and keep shades closed during the hottest part of the day. Finally, invest in a fan or a portable aircon unit.
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