January 31, 2023

If your home doesn’t have air conditioning, keep the curtains closed, use a fan to blow air around, take a shower to keep cool, wear loose-fitting clothes, and take it easy even if you’re in good health. “Now is not the time to go out and mow your lawn,” said Dr. Brangman.

You should also refrain from consuming alcohol, sugary drinks, and caffeine, which can lead to dehydration. And of course you should drink a lot of water.

It’s also important to know that heat can interact with certain medications; people with heart disease who take a diuretic, for example, are at risk of becoming dehydrated, said Dr. Brangman. Talk to your doctor to see if any of the medications you’re taking need to be adjusted when it’s hot.

Caregivers play a particularly important role in preventing heat-related illness in the older adults they care for:

  • Check in regularly and ensure that the living space of those under your care is moderate. Also, don’t blow up the air conditioning as the opposite problem – hypothermia – can become a concern.

  • If the space can’t be made cool enough, consider moving your loved one to a cooling center — be it a mall, library, or other cool place.

  • If necessary, sponge the people you care for with cold water and make sure their clothes are loose.

  • Encourage those in your care to drink plenty of water.

Caregivers should keep in mind that “people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may not understand when they are thirsty or don’t know how to quench their thirst or get something to drink,” said Dr. Brangman. “So they need extra supervision to make sure they’re getting enough fluids.”

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Most importantly, health care providers should remain vigilant and be ready to act quickly, as it can take as little as 10 minutes for body temperature to rise to dangerous levels, said Dr. Brangman. If the person you are caring for shows any symptom of heat distress, call 911 and go to a hospital right away.