Many of us would often only associate the cold weather with causing harm to the elderly but they can be equally vulnerable during extremes of hot weather too. They can be particularly at risk especially if they suffer with some kind of vascular disease, diabetes or some other health-related condition.
A lot of the time and, without often realising it, older people will tend to overdress and put on warmer clothes even when it’s hot outside. This is because you tend to perspire less as you get older and there’s less ability to regulate body temperature. The elderly are more at risk from the heat due to existing medical conditions and medications they are taking. They can also suffer because their skin is thinner and offers less protection from the sun and, in some cases, their mental faculties might no longer be functioning properly which can mean that they may not even notice the changes in temperature.
There are several useful ways of keeping cool during extremely hot weather which apply to the elderly whether they’re able to do things for themselves or are relying on others, such as loved ones or neighbours to help them out.
Wearing lightweight, loose fitting clothes can help you stay cool. If you’re out and about, don’t forget to wear some kind of lightweight hat and don’t feel odd about carrying an umbrella around with you. It can help to keep the sun off you as well as the rain. Buy or get hold of a fan. Although not as effective as air-conditioning, they do offer some relief from stagnant, intense heat.
Alternatively, use hot days to visit a library, the cinema, theatre or some other place of interest which does have air-conditioning. Keep out of the sun when it’s at its most intense – usually between the hours of 11am and 4pm. Or, if you feel you can’t stay inside, try to find a place in your back garden or yard where you can get beneath shade. Keep all of your curtains and blinds closed during the day. Your house may look more dimly lit but this will offer you welcome protection from the searing heat outside.
Keep physical activities to a minimum and make sure you drink plenty of water. Take a cool shower or bath to cool you down and seek advice from your GP if you’re taking any medication as some medications can increase the risk of heat stress. And, if you’re a nearby neighbour to someone who’s elderly, make sure that you check in on them more than usual and look for signs of heat related problems that they might not be even be aware of.
Winter time presents the totally opposite problem of how to keep warm. Many elderly people end up falling victim to hypothermia and even death through their fear of having their fire or heating on for too long because of cost. You should find out what you’re entitled to from your local council, in terms of winter fuel payments and any other energy efficiency grants you may be eligible for.
Wear extra layers of clothing. A number of thinner layers will keep you warmer than one thick layer. And, even wear a hat in the house if you want to as it’s your head more than any other part of your body where the heat your body holds is going to escape from. Gloves or scarves shouldn’t be dismissed either and make sure all of your windows are tightly shut. Maintain a healthy diet but take on board hot cups of soup as these will warm you up. Keeping a flask near you will keep you warmer throughout the day.
You can wear socks in bed and take a hot water bottle with you if you don’t have an electric blanket. A flask of hot tea by your bedside will also be useful if you wake up in the middle of the night and try to keep active during the day, doing your household chores, for instance, as moving around will keep you warmer for longer than simply sitting still. If you smoke, now’s the perfect time to quit. Not only are you less likely to be at risk of coughs, colds and flu, quitting the cigarettes will also improve your circulation which will help you keep warmer. Don’t forget your flu jab either. As with the heat, if you’re a neighbour living close to an elderly person, make sure you go and check on them regularly as they are especially vulnerable during spells of extremely cold weather.