As restrictions on gatherings loosen and families begin to enjoy outdoor, summer activities, the Alzheimer’s Association is providing tips for those facing dementia to prepare for extreme heat conditions and prevent wandering.
Taking steps to plan ahead for extreme heat can prevent injuries and help a person with the disease feel more relaxed and comfortable. Additionally, the organization stressed in a press release the importance of preventing wandering, which can be extremely harmful, and even deadly, during times of high temperatures.
Family and friends should prepare accordingly and make plans to regularly check in on a person living with dementia during extreme heat.
Increased water intake is essential to maintaining good hydration and health during extreme heat. Know the signs of heat exhaustion to avoid heat stroke.
Dehydration may be difficult to notice in a person living with dementia, as signs like increased fatigue, dry mouth and headache may be difficult to detect.
Pay attention at night
Keep people living with dementia cool by using fans and keeping the air conditioning on. At night, low temperatures can still exceed 75 degrees with little fluctuation in humidity levels, making for difficult, exacerbating sleeping conditions, heightened anxiety and increased agitation.
Keep an eye on local weather forecasts. High temperatures are not the only cause for concern. Humidity and air pollution indices can cause breathing difficulties.
The person should be monitored regularly and seek medical attention if symptoms of dehydration or heat exhaustion last for more than one hour.
It’s common for a person living with dementia to wander or become lost or confused about their location, and it can happen in any stage of the disease.
The association said 6 in 10 people living with dementia will wander at least once; many do so repeatedly.
The Alzheimer’s Association has issued tips to help families keep their loved ones safe and reduce the risk of wandering:
Provide opportunities for the person to engage in structured, meaningful activities throughout the day.
Avoid busy places that are confusing and can cause disorientation, such as shopping malls. Assess the person’s response to new surroundings.
Do not leave someone with dementia unsupervised if new surroundings may cause confusion, disorientation or agitation.
Prepare your home
Consider what precautions to take to keep your loved one safe, such as placing deadbolts out of the line of sight, using night lights throughout the home, installing safety covers on doorknobs, and setting up a security system that alerts you when doors are opened.
Consider enrolling the person living with dementia in a wandering response service.
Ask neighbors, friends and family to call if they see the person wandering, lost or dressed inappropriately.
Keep a recent, close-up photo of the person on hand to give to police, should the need arise Create a list of places the person might wander to, such as past jobs, former homes, places of worship or a favorite restaurant.
To learn more about extreme heat safety precautions and wandering prevention, visit alz.org.