How to help your elderly loved one cope with the heat this summer

How to help your elderly loved one cope with the heat this summer
4 min read

Summer time can bring us opportunities to get outside and make the most of the warm weather. With rising temperatures, we can finally enjoy days out at the beach, sunbathing at the park, and wearing our favourite summer clothes. Yet, for many older people, hot weather can lead to increased risk of health problems and isolation indoors as going outside becomes more difficult. This summer, it’s important that your older loved ones take the correct measures to enjoy summer safely and healthily.

Why is a heatwave a problem for elderly people?

Persistent high temperatures or a heatwave can cause significant health problems to those most at risk. Elderly people are at a higher risk of developing heat exhaustion, heatstroke, or suffering from dehydration. Furthermore, older people are often less aware that they are becoming dehydrated and need to keep drinking fluids. Anyone with experience in elderly day care is familiar with these kinds of problems.

A heatwave can affect anyone, but seniors are particularly vulnerable if they meet the following criteria:

  • Are aged over 75

  • Have a serious chronic condition, especially heart or breathing problems

  • Experience mobility problems – for example, people with Parkinson’s disease or who have had a stroke

  • Live with a serious mental health problem

  • Take certain medications, including those that affect sweating and temperature control

As rates of these conditions are higher in the elderly, older people are at an increased risk of exacerbating these existing conditions as well as developing dehydration and heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

The alert system

The Met Office has a warning system that issues alerts if a heatwave is likely.

Level one: be prepared

You don’t have to take any specific measures during a level one alert but it’s advisable to know what to do if the level is raised.

Level two: heatwave is forecast

This level is raised if there is a high chance of average temperature of 30C by day and 15C overnight over the next two to three days. There can be significant effects on people’s health if these temperatures persist for at least two days and the night in between.

No immediate action needs to be taken but you should be prepared in the following ways:

  • Stay tuned to weather forecasts on the radio, TV, or social media

  • If you’re planning to travel, check the forecast at your destination

  • Learn how to keep cool via the tips below

Level three: heatwave is happening

This is triggered when the MET office confirms there will be heatwave temperatures in one or more regions.

Level four: severe heatwave

This is the highest heatwave alert in Britain. It’s raised when a heatwave is severe and prolonged, and is an emergency situation. At this level, the health risk from a heatwave can also affect fit and healthy people as well as high-risk groups.

It is an emergency situation if your loved one is unconscious or has had a seizure. Contact the emergency services and request an ambulance immediately on 999.


Top tips for coping in hot weather

1 - Stay hydrated

Perhaps most importantly, it’s essential that your loved one drinks plenty fluids to stay hydrated. Consider the following tips:

  • Drink plenty of cold drinks, mainly water and diluted fruit juice

  • Avoid excess alcohol, caffeine, drinks high in sugar, and hot drinks

  • Drink enough fluid so you’re not thirsty for long periods

  • Passing clear urine is a good sign that you’re well hydrated

  • Eat cold foods, particularly salads and fruit with a high water content

2 - Stay out of the heat

  • Keep out of the sun between 11am and 3pm (the hottest part of the day)

  • If your loved one has to go out in the heat, walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a hat and light scarf

  • Avoid extreme physical exertion

  • Wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothes

3 - Stay up-to-date with forecasts

This is important during late spring and throughout the summer:

  • Stay up-to-date with forecasts and alerts on the radio, TV and social media

  • If you’re travelling to a hot country, be particularly careful for at least the first few days, until you get used to the temperature.

4 - Keep yourself cool

Feeling cool is a good indicator that you’re not overheating. You can maintain a comfortable body temperature in the following ways:

  • Take a cool bath or shower or sprinkle water over your skin or clothing, or keep a damp cloth on the back of your neck

  • Keep your environment cool

  • Shut windows and pull down the shades when it’s hotter outside - only open windows for ventilation when it’s cooler outside than inside

  • If possible, move into a cooler room, especially for sleeping

  • Wear loose, cool clothing, a hat, and sunglasses if you go outdoors

  • Electric fans may provide some relief

  • Turn off non-essential lights and electrical equipment, which generate heat

  • Keep indoor plants and bowls of water inside, as these can cool the air

  • In the longer term, consider having your loft and cavity walls insulated, as this retains heat when cold and keeps it out when hot. Using light-coloured, reflective external paint on your house may also be useful.

5 - Look out for others

  • Do not leave elderly people alone in stationary cars

  • Check on isolated, elderly, or sick neighbours, family or friends every day during a heatwave and help them manage the temperature of their home, such as closing blinds or assisting them in moving to a cooler room

  • Be alert and call a doctor or social services if someone is unwell or further help is needed

  • Plan ahead to make sure your love one has enough supplies, such as food, water and any medications they need

For more support or advice on home care services over the summer (or any other time of year), or just to schedule some in-home respite care to give yourself a break without leaving your loved one alone, give SuperCarers a call on 020 8629 1030.