Hot Weather: Tips for Helping People Living with Dementia to Keep Cool and Avoid Dehydration

Summer is a beautiful time of year, with long sunny days and opportunities for outdoor activities. However, it also brings the risk of overheating and dehydration, especially for people living with dementia. People living with dementia may struggle to communicate their discomfort or needs, making it crucial for caregivers to be proactive in keeping them safe during the hot weather.  Understanding how to prevent overheating and dehydration for those living with dementia can make a significant difference in their health and wellbeing.

Overheating is a serious concern in the summer, as high temperatures can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke, both of which are medical emergencies. For individuals living with dementia, the risks are heightened because they may not recognise or verbalise their need to cool down or drink fluids. Dehydration is another significant concern. The body loses more water through sweat in the heat, and if not replenished, it can lead to severe health issues.

A frequent question that caregivers ask is, ‘does dehydration make dementia worse?’. Dehydration in people living with dementia can be particularly dangerous because it can exacerbate cognitive symptoms, lead to urinary tract infections, and cause dizziness or falls. Caregivers must be vigilant in ensuring their loved ones are hydrated and cool. Here are some practical tips to help manage these risks.

Offer cold drinks regularly, not just water but also hydrating snacks like fruits (watermelon, cucumber) and ice pops. Monitor fluid intake to ensure they are drinking enough throughout the day. Sometimes flavoured water or electrolyte drinks can be more appealing.

Hydration sweets, often called jelly drops, contain electrolytes and can help to boost hydration and support anyone that doesn’t want to drink water.

These are all key in reducing dehydration for your loved one living with dementia.

Ensure they wear light, loose-fitting clothing made from natural fibres like cotton, which allow the skin to breathe. A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses can protect them from the sun if they need to go outside.

While keeping windows open for fresh air, ensure that the indoor environment remains cool. Cross-ventilation can help if the outdoor temperature is lower than inside.

 Use a dehumidifier if the air is too humid, as high humidity can make it feel hotter and more uncomfortable.

 A cool bath or shower can help reduce body temperature. Even soaking feet in cool water can provide relief.

Despite taking precautions, it is essential to recognise the signs of dehydration and heat-related illnesses. Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • dry mouth
  • dark urine
  • dizziness
  • less frequent urination.

People living with dementia also struggle with hot weather. Signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • heavy sweating
  • weakness
  • cold
  • clammy skin
  • nausea.

Heat stroke is more severe and can make dementia worse. Signs to look out for include:

  • high body temperature
  • confusion
  • rapid pulse
  •  possible loss of consciousness

If you notice signs of severe dehydration or heat-related illness in the elderly, it is crucial to seek medical help immediately. Early intervention can prevent complications and ensure the person living with dementia remains safe and healthy.

Caring for someone living with dementia during the hot weather requires attentiveness and proactive measures. By keeping their environment cool, encouraging regular hydration, and monitoring for signs of heat stress, caregivers can help ensure their loved ones stay comfortable and safe. Always remember that when in doubt, seeking medical advice is the best course of action to protect their health.