Summer can bring many challenges for someone with Alzheimer's disease, especially if he or she has other medical conditions. Protective measures and strategies should be in place to manage the summer's hot and humid conditions.
Those with Alzheimer's and, in general, those over 65, are more prone to heat stress because they do not adjust easily to sudden changes in temperature. Chronic medical conditions also may make them respond differently to heat.
If an environment is not adequately cooled, he or she could suffer from heat stress or hyperthermia, which occurs when the body's heat-regulating system is insufficient to keep them cool. Symptoms of hyperthermia include fainting, heat cramps, heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers and some heart and blood pressure medications can all contribute to or put an individual at risk for heat-related stress conditions.
With the temperature climbing, it's a good idea to make sure the air conditioning is functioning properly by having the system checked. If air conditioning is not available, make sure there is adequate air flow by using fans throughout the household. Affected individuals can benefit from participating in a senior center or a respite day program that can provide a cool, safe environment, along with a much needed social setting. Many individuals enjoy sitting outside, but the weather should be monitored to ensure their safety. Even in the shade, the heat can be overwhelming.
Dehydration is a main concern so fluid intake should be monitored, with individuals drinking six to eight glasses of water or other fluids a day. Hydration should be offered at least every two hours. Keep in mind, however, that beverages with sugar and/or caffeine may help with hydration but are not as effective as low-sugar or low- or noncaffeinated beverages.
Often, people with Alzheimer's or dementia refuse to drink water. Other ways of increasing fluid intake is with milk on cereal, soup, ice pops and supplements.
Other measures that can be taken to keep cool in the summer include cool showers, baths or sponge baths, scheduling appointments in the cooler morning hours and wearing comfortable, lightweight clothing.
Some form of physical activity should be continued during the summer, but try to find ways to do them in cooler environments. For example, take short evening walks, which can be a good time to also promote socialization with family or friends.
Questions about Alzheimer's disease or related disorders can be sent to Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, owner of Dana Territo Consulting LLC, at email@example.com.