Tips for living well with dementia during warm weather and heat alerts
Spring and summer in Canada can bring very warm weather in many parts of the country, as well as heat alerts in some areas. Here are some ways to stay safe and well while living with dementia when it's hot—and help others do so too.
Key things to know
- It’s important for everyone to take extra care in the extreme heat.
- Elderly people in particular, and people with some chronic medical conditions, can be susceptible to stress and illness from the heat.
- It takes time to adjust to hot temperatures, and serious medical problems can occur when someone becomes overheated.
- On very hot days, venture outside with caution.
Beat the heat to stay safe
Some people don’t perspire very much, even when it’s humid. Stay out of the heat at the hottest times of the day and seek shade when you are outside. Being exposed to high heat can lead to heat-related problems such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Stay in areas where there is plenty of air conditioning and air circulation. (This can include public libraries, community centres, grocery stores and shopping malls, as well as cooling centres your municipality may set up during heat alerts.)
Thirst declines with age, and older sweat glands don’t produce as much sweat as they used to. Also, the sweat you produce tends to contain more salt. Lack of salt in the body can cause sudden drops in blood pressure. Drink plenty of water or juice throughout the day, as often as every 15 to 20 minutes. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks, which can make it more difficult for your body to adjust its temperature.
Apply cool cloths
A cool cloth applied to the face, neck and arms, as well as short baths and showers, are other good ways to beat the heat. Avoid heavy meals. Wear lightweight, light-coloured clothing.
Watch for signs
Be aware of signs of illness due to excess heat. Muscle cramps, fatigue, confusion, light-headedness and nausea can all be signs of trouble. So can laboured breathing, chest discomfort, and a rapid or erratic pulse.
Also watch for mosquitoes
Hot weather also brings out the mosquitoes, and the risk of West Nile virus, which they transmit to humans. Prevent mosquito bites by using insect repellent and covering up with light clothing—long sleeves and pants.
More tips for protection from heat and mosquitoes:
- Wear sunglasses to help protect your eyes from the sun’s UV rays.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim; this will help shield your skin from UV rays.
- When possible, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks when outdoors.
- Avoid or take extra care when you are outdoors between dusk and dawn.
- Avoid areas where there is standing water.
- Stay in shaded areas when outdoors.
- Avoid outdoor activities during midday, when the sun’s rays are strongest.
- Check the expiry date of any protective products you are using.
More useful links and resources
Check out ExtremeHeat.ca, an online resource providing information, tools, and tips on protecting yourself from heat-related illnesses. This website is a collaboration of McMaster University, Health Canada, the Ontario College of Family Physicians and the Clean Air Partnership.
Contact your local Alzheimer Society at alzheimer.ca/Find for specific programs to help yourself and others safe. Or reach our national information and referral line at 1-855-705-4636 or [email protected] for assistance finding info or connecting with area experts.