Warmer Weather Transition Tips for People Living with Dementia
As we move into the warmer months of the year, it is important to consider how temperature changes may affect a person living with dementia. Although the nicer weather and the summer holiday period may mean more time to spend outdoors with loved ones, it is also important to be conscious of how we can keep them safe as the temperatures start to rise.
Communication and Behaviour
Communication difficulties may lead a person with dementia to not be able to express when the heat is uncomfortable for them or if they are feeling unwell. Behaviour changes can also be linked to temperature changes. Sundowning behaviour, which is a state of confusion that occurs late in the afternoon or evening, can be heightened by the increased heat. As well as this, the lighter and longer days can also have an impact on our internal body clocks. Routine, appropriate lighting and sun exposure, hydration and rest can help reduce sundowning behaviours and can avoid illness, such as heatstroke, that a person may not be able to communicate.
Dehydration is another factor to consider. A person with dementia may not be able to express they need a drink or may need reminders and prompts to keep up with their daily intake. Keeping preferred drinks and aids (if applicable) closely accessible, telephone or assistive technology reminders, popping in to join them for a drink or increasing hydration levels through diet are all ways to avoid dehydration. On average, a person with dementia should be drinking between 6-8 cups a day. Jelly Drops are a product designed to aid with increasing water intake, in the form of sweets which are 95% water. They are designed for several audiences, including those with dementia, and are endorsed by the Alzheimer’s Society.
Temperature at home
Keeping the house cool can be difficult, especially if a person with dementia is set in a routine of turning the central heating on during the day. Check that the central heating has not been turned on, keep curtains and blinds shut during the day to keep the house cool and open windows in the evening to allow for air flow. Age Cymru West Glamorgan have provided the Hwb with room thermometers, these allow for internal temperatures to be checked that could prompt a loved one to close curtains or to maintain hydration levels.
Medication such as antipsychotics, sometimes used to manage hallucinations and delusions in a person with dementia, and antidepressants that can be used to manage mood and behaviour changes can cause peoples skin to be more reactive to sunlight, can affect the way the hypothalamus deals with body temperature regulation and thus make the body more prone to sweating and dehydration. Dehydration can also reduce a person’s blood pressure which can increase the risk of fainting, heatstroke and heat exhaustion. It is particularly important to maintain a schedule of medication during hot weather, ensure tablets are taken with plenty of water and at the correct times every day to reduce this risk.
Keeping a person with dementia cool
Some tips for keeping your loved one’s cooler in the hot weather are:
- Ensure to encourage a person living with dementia frequently, this could be making sure they always have a drink next to them, regular reminders, offering small amounts frequently or simply sitting with them and enjoying a drink together.
- Boost hydration by adding high water content food to their diet. This could be yoghurts, ice lollies, finger foods such as cucumber or melon, jelly or anything your loved one enjoys with a high water content. A lot of these can be preprepared simply and quickly to ensure they are accessible.
- Keep out of the summer heat during peak times, this is usually between 11am and 3pm, and if you do need to go out ensure to bring sunscreen and reapply frequently, plenty to drink and seek out shade.
- Loose fitting clothing can keep a person with dementia cooler. However, be mindful of a person’s independence and respect their decisions on what they want to wear. Discussing the occasion and weather may help them make the decision, setting out a weather appropriate outfit together to allow the person to have choice, buying similar clothes to what they are used to in natural fabrics that are thinner and offering a hat or cap for outings to help keep them cool.
- If you are unable to make frequent visits, ensure a friend or neighbour can pop in to check on them, have a drink with them and make sure they are doing okay.
- Keep the house as cool as possible. This can be challenging if a person with dementia is in the routine of having the heating on throughout the day. Keeping the curtains or blinds closed during the day can keep the home cooler and opening windows for cooler airflow during the evening. If there is a fan available and they wish to use it, make sure it is accessible and in a place where trips and falls can’t occur.
Article by Kayleigh Phillips
You Are Not Alone
Remember, you are not alone. If you have concerns about your memory, care for someone with dementia or are looking for additional information and advice the Dementia Hwb is here for you. You can visit the Hwb 7 days a week between 11am-3pm, call us on 01792 304519 or email us on email@example.com. We can also offer memory assessments with the Community Memory Support Team for Swansea Bay University Health Board. This is not a diagnosis but instead designed for people without a diagnosis who are worried about their memory to see if they need further referral to a GP or alternate memory test.