Beating the heat: How temperatures can affect seniors and those on certain medications

senior fitness at prime plus center.jpg
Posted at 1:42 PM, Jul 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-21 18:12:13-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – Extreme heat can have more of an effect than you might realize when it comes to not only the elderly, but even younger people taking various medications.

According to News 3 meteorologists, the entire Hampton Roads area is under a Heat Advisory with the exception of the Southside and Peninsulas which are under an Excessive Heat Warning due to higher dew points.

As temperatures rise, extreme heat can be especially stressful and confusing for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

They may be unable to communicate their discomfort, according to Douglas Panto, community program manager for the Alzheimer's Association Southeastern Virginia Chapter. He said that can lead to unpleasant behaviors.

The Alzheimer’s Association says that warning signs that the heat is adversely affecting someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia can include them pacing back and forth in the house and calling out or yelling.

Panto added that dementia patients are at risk for wandering, and the extreme heat can pose a greater danger if they end up outside for longer periods of time. He also said if the house is too warm, it could cause them to explore outdoors.

The Alzheimer’s Association is offering important safety tips for caregivers and families dealing with Alzheimer’s and other dementias to prepare for the hot days ahead:

  • Make a plan. Family and friends should prepare accordingly and make plans to regularly check in on a person living with Alzheimer’s during periods of extreme heat. Arrange alternative plans for cooler spaces if air conditioning is unavailable, and dress in loose-fitting, light clothing.
  • Pay attention at night. Keep people living with Alzheimer’s cool by using fans and keep the air conditioning on. At night, low temperatures can still exceed 75 degrees with little fluctuation in humidity levels, making for difficult sleeping conditions, heightened anxiety and increased agitation.
  • Prepare for behavioral changes. Research shows that heat can increase agitation and confusion in people. Try to remove behavioral triggers by addressing the person’s physical needs related to the heat, then tending to their emotional needs.
  • Stay hydrated. 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 Alzheimer’s, as signs like increased fatigue, dry mouth and headache may be difficult to detect. People taking diuretics, sedatives, or certain heart medications may not sweat as much as others, but this does not mean they are not hot.
  • Stay indoors out of the sun. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion may occur in extreme heat conditions but symptoms may be difficult to detect in people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Keep individuals cool by using air conditioning at home or move to a public place, such as a senior center or shopping mall. If you must go outside, dress appropriately with loose-fitting, light clothing, wear a hat and apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

Regardless of age or cognitive abilities, some medications cause heat intolerance. Medical professionals say that even allergy medications or those to treat high blood pressure can make an individual vulnerable to heat.
News 3 visited the Prime Plus Center in Norfolk which is a senior center offering various activities including fitness classes, card games, free meals, and more.

For more information on the Prime Plus Center, click here.

If you are concerned about a senior citizen or have questions about Alzheimer’s, you can call the 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900. That number is open 24 hours, 7 days a week. You can also visit this website.