The summer months can be tricky for someone who has dementia or another brain-processing disorder. The body and the brain aren’t able to communicate the way they once did. People with dementia may not be aware they are overheating because the brain is not understanding the signals from the body. They also have great difficulty with reasoning and problem-solving. Typically, when we begin to feel too warm, we are able to sense it and problem-solve what to do next. We may take one or more of the following steps: check the thermostat, turn up the air conditioning, turn on a fan, get out of the sun, change into a cooler outfit, or drink a cold beverage. A person with dementia may not be able to remember to do these things.
Here are a few ways to keep your loved ones with dementia safe and cool in the hot summer months:
- Keep a cold glass of water within their reach and line of sight.
Keep a nice, cold glass of water or other non-caffeinated beverage within reach throughout the day. Do not ask, “Are you thirsty?” because they may not know! The brain may not be able to accurately judge this. When people can see and reach a cold drink, this is a visual reminder to keep drinking.
- Check the thermostat.
Check the thermostat. Especially when a person with dementia lives alone, operating technology such as a thermostat can be troublesome. Double-check that the air conditioning is used during the hot months. Sometimes people with dementia forget to turn it on, or cannot operate it correctly. Periodically check the temperature of the home to ensure it is within comfortable limits. Wifi thermostats, widely available at home improvement stores, are a convenient way to monitor a loved one’s home temperature from afar.
- Rearrange the closet.
Choosing outfits that are appropriate for the weather is a complicated task for a person with dementia. To help with this, assist the person to pack away winter clothes and keep only summer-appropriate clothing items in the closet or dresser. This will make it easier for your loved one to select a good outfit for the heat.
- Do outdoor work only during the cool parts of the day.
If your loved one likes to work outside in the yard, make sure it is cool enough outside for them to do so. The brain might not be able to interpret when the body becomes too hot. Schedule your day so that they can work during the coolest time possible, such as in the morning. Also keep sunscreen and wide-brimmed hats handy. If there is a heat warning, find an enjoyable activity to do inside instead.