AlzU Blog

Heat Related Illnesses in Seniors with Alzheimer’s Disease

As summer temperatures increase, so do health hazards of seniors with Alzheimer’s disease (AD).  Seniors are particularly vulnerable to the effects of extreme heat.  In fact seniors every year succumb to heat stroke or even death as a direct result of being subject to high temperatures. 

The reason seniors are extremely subject to adverse effects from the heat has to do with a combination of factors including; alteration in fluid balance, inability to afford air conditioning or other cooling methods, medications that cause an increased susceptibility to heat stroke (as a result of interruption in normal fluid balance), and more.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that heat related illness and death in the elderly population has very likely been under reported. 

A special research team from Harvard School of Public Health recently examined data on the relationship between extremely high temperature exposures in hospitalized elderly adults.  The team found that “extreme heat is the most common cause of weather-related mortality in the U.S.”  The results of the study indicated that heat stroke was the greatest risk from high temperatures but other heat related illnesses were common such as; kidney failure, fluid and electrolyte imbalances, urinary tract infections and even sepsis (a severe blood infection).

Protect your elderly family members during hot summer months by;
•Ensure he/she drinks ample fresh drinking water and other fluids. 
•Encourage foods that hydrate, such as watermelon, juicy peaches and other hydrating fruits. 
•Instruct your loved one to avoid caffeine which can add to fluid depletion. 
•NOTE; consult with the physician BEFORE encouraging increased fluids for those on a fluid restriction diet. 
•Ensure that air conditioning units are in good working order and that your elderly loved one is paying the electric bill on time. 
•Close drapes and use room darkening shades to keep the heat from the sun from increasing the temperature inside the house. 
•If it’s impossible to keep your loved one’s home cool during summer months, consider temporarily moving him/her to a friend or relatives home with adequate air conditioning (particularly during very hot humid days). 
•Checkout community drop-in centers or adult day centers which could provide a cool spot for your loved one during the hottest peak hours of the daytime.

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